BENNINGTON — The court denied on Monday prosecutors’ request to place a local white nationalist on house arrest, saying there exists no threat that would justify such a restriction.
Bennington Superior Judge Cortland Corsones made the ruling from the bench, two business days after the Vermont Attorney General’s Office asked for changes to Max Misch’s conditions of release in the interest of public safety.
The attorney general’s office is prosecuting Misch, 38, of Bennington, on a primary case of illegally possessing large-capacity firearm magazines. Since the misdemeanor charges were filed in 2019, the court has allowed him back into the community on conditions.
But on Thursday, the attorney general’s office asked that he be placed on home detention round the clock. It argued that the current conditions of release haven’t prevented him from being charged with new crimes.
Misch is facing five other misdemeanor cases, alleging violations of release conditions and disorderly conduct within the past two years. His latest and most serious case involves felony charges of aggravated domestic assault.
Home detention 24/7 is “really the only way, from the state’s perspective, to ensure compliance with these conditions and to protect the public,” assistant attorney general Ultan Doyle said in a hearing Monday afternoon.
Misch’s attorney, public defender Fred Bragdon, opposed the request, saying there are no grounds for it. He said the woman who complained about being assaulted in December made the allegations earlier this month, after Misch called police to remove her from his apartment amid a dispute.
In his latest charge of violating release conditions, Bragdon said they have a “very strong case” that Misch didn’t initiate contact with his ex-wife, a witness in the magazine case. He said store security video shows the woman following Misch around Walmart in May, and not the other way around, as the woman reported.
“Has my client so misbehaved? Are the charges so mounting in a fashion that it should be imposed,” Bragdon said of 24/7 home detention. “We would argue that they’re not.”
He said Misch, a military veteran, has been living in Bennington for five years and is “safe and secure” in the community.
Corsones sided with the defense, saying the court has an obligation to impose the least restrictive conditions in its duty to protect the public. The judge said the Walmart incident does not appear to be “serious enough to impose such a physically restrictive condition.”
He also said home detention wouldn’t have prevented the domestic violence allegations, since Misch and the complainant had been living in the same apartment by agreement.
In addition, Corsones said, the court has already imposed release conditions that order Misch not to have any contact with the woman, not to harass her and to stay at least 300 feet away from her, her home, workplace and vehicle.
“The court’s satisfied that there are already conditions in place designed to protect the public,” he said.
Misch, who attended the hearing by video link, did not speak.