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Court date set for National Geographic freelancer who flew over cattle yard in paraglider

A first court appearance is scheduled for a well-known freelance photographer who was charged with misdemeanor trespassing after he flew a paraglider over a Kansas feedlot while shooting pictures.

A hearing for George Steinmetz, of Glenn Ridge, N.J., and his assistant, Wei Zhang, of Beijing, China, is set for Aug. 29 in Finney County.

Steinmetz was on assignment for National Geographic magazine when he flew above Brookover Feed Yard June 28. The feedlot owners say he did not seek permission for the flight.

It's not clear if the men will appear in court because state law allows misdemeanor defendants to appear through their attorneys, if a judge agrees, The Hutchinson News reported (http://bit.ly/13F0cme ). Trespassing is a class B nonperson misdemeanor in Kansas, carrying a minimum 48 hours in jail.

National Geographic does not believe the men are guilty and retained Garden City attorney Lucille Douglass to represent them, said magazine spokeswoman Beth Foster.

Steinmetz, who has gained fame for photographs he has taken across the world while using a paraglider, was taking photographs of the feedlot from the air for a series on food issues set to appear next year. Zhang, a paraglider instructor, was waiting on the ground.

"Much discussion has ensued surrounding the arrest of Mr. Steinmetz and his employee regarding the right to air space and to take photographs," said Finney County Attorney Susan Richmeier said in a news release. "The charges in no way are related to those two issues and focus on the landowner's right to privacy and control over their property. The persons involved have been charged with criminal trespass and their guilt or innocence must be proven in a court of law."

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Information from: The Hutchinson (Kan.) News, http://www.hutchnews.com

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