Max Misch hearing, 4/26/21

Max Misch, bottom left, appears by video call in a Bennington Superior criminal court hearing on Monday.

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BENNINGTON — Max Misch is negotiating with the state on a settlement to his firearm magazine charges, though the case could still end up at trial, the court was told Monday.

Misch, of Bennington, is facing multiple misdemeanor counts, the most watched of which is two counts of illegally possessing large-capacity rifle magazines in 2019. He is the first and only person to be charged by the Vermont Attorney General’s Office under the state’s new gun control legislation.

For the past two weeks, Misch, 38, has been engaged in plea negotiations with the Attorney General’s Office, said public defender Fred Bragdon. At the same time, he said, Misch is still contemplating whether to file another appeal before trial — this time based on his right to keep and bear arms under the U.S. Constitution.

“The only left pretrial motion would be a U.S. Constitutional Second Amendment that you can’t charge this crime,” Bragdon said. “There’s also good-faith ongoing negotiations.”

Misch earlier appealed with the state Supreme Court, asking justices to nullify the magazine ban because it violates people’s right to bear arms for defense under the Vermont Constitution and its prohibition against the passage of laws that benefit only certain people.

The ban, part of the state’s 2018 gun control legislation, prohibits magazines containing more than 10 rounds for long guns and more than 15 rounds for handguns. Police said they found two 30-round magazines at Misch’s home in February 2019, allegedly acquired after the ban took effect.

The Vermont Supreme Court ruled in the state’s favor in February, saying the magazine ban is a reasonable regulation of people’s right to bear arms for self-defense.

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Although it’s unclear when Bennington County will restart jury trials amid the coronavirus pandemic, both Misch and the state have said they’re ready for trial if negotiations fall through. “We are having some settlement discussions,” Asst. Attorney General Ultan Doyle said at the remote hearing Monday. “I’m not sure if they’ll go anywhere or not.”

Besides the firearms magazine case, Misch has four other pending criminal cases. The Attorney General’s Office is handling two of them, pertaining to charges of violating conditions of release.

The Bennington State’s Attorney’s Office is prosecuting the other two: a charge of disorderly conduct during the painting of Bennington’s Black Lives Matter mural in August, as well as another disorderly conduct allegation, stemming from a fight with a Black man in September.

The latter charge, which has been enhanced as a hate crime, carries the most serious potential jail time Misch is facing: two years. The rest are punishable by up to a year in jail.

At Misch’s previous hearing in March, Bragdon said the Bennington County State’s Attorney offered Misch “fine only” penalties in exchange for admitting to disorderly conduct. No update on this plea offer was discussed during Monday’s hearing, which was attended also by county State’s Attorney Erica Marthage.

Misch, a self-described white nationalist and Iraq War veteran, appeared via video call.

Contact Tiffany Tan at ttan@benningtonbanner.com or @tiffgtan on Facebook and Twitter.


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