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Rohnert Park pilot to be tried in Arkansas plane escapade

An Arkansas judge on Monday set a Jan. 7 trial date for the Rohnert Park pilot who was the subject of a statewide manhunt after fleeing from deputies in his airplane.

Dennis Franklin Hunter appeared before Judge Grisham Phillips in Saline County Circuit Court facing a single charge of aggravated assault on a peace officer. If convicted, he could face up to six years in state prison, prosecutor Brian Clary said.

The charge stems from an April 1 incident at Saline County Airport where deputies sought to detain Hunter when he landed to refuel. Department of Homeland Security officials have said they were tracking Hunter's plane suspecting drugs were onboard.

Hunter owns a Santa Rosa-based company called GeoPot, which designs and sells fabric pots and planter boxes. He was sentenced in 2005 to 6? years in federal prison for operating one of the largest indoor pot farms in Humboldt County history.

When deputies approached the plane as he refueled, Hunter jumped back in the cockpit, hit the throttle and hastily took off. He later landed on a rural road and fled into the woods, turning himself into authorities several days later.

The assault charge stems from deputies' saying that the wing of Hunter's plane nearly struck a deputy when he fled.

— Kevin McCallum


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