Judge orders man to stay away from lawmaker

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BENNINGTON — A man has been ordered to stay away from and not contact a local lawmaker after he sent her racially charged tweets and made her fear for her safety.

A judge issued a protective stalking order last week against Max Misch, who in August directed race-based comments towards and later allegedly intimidated State Rep. Kiah Morris. According to court documents, Morris feared for her safety after Misch sent her additional messages in the fall and following an encounter with him on Election Day.

Judge William D. Cohen issued the year-long order in Vermont Superior Court Bennington Civil Division on Dec. 1. Misch, 33, of Bennington, was ordered to have no contact with Morris or her family, and to stay 300 feet away from them and their residence.

Misch had posted a picture from his Twitter account on Aug. 9, apparently responding to news that Morris, one of two Vermont legislators who are black, was projected to win the uncontested Democratic primary for her district. The tweet was directed at Morris' account and included obscene language and a caricature of a black person. The comments were overwhelmingly denounced as racist and Morris drew much support from Bennington-area residents and state officials.

The Twitter account, which has since been suspended, carried Misch's name and included numerous references to white nationalism and antisemitism. Misch identifies with the so-called alternative right, or "alt-right" movement, which has been described as a mix of racism, white nationalism and populism. In a Twitter exchange with a Banner reporter, Misch said at the time that Morris could not represent her Vermont district, where a majority of the population is white.

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Morris filed for a temporary order on Nov. 17, court documents show. In an affidavit, she wrote Misch targeted her online again in October. She also described an incident at the Bennington firehouse on Election Day, Nov. 8, during which Misch stared at her "for an extended period of time in a threatening way with the intention of intimidation." She also wrote she had reported her home was broken into and that the Bennington Democratic Headquarters on Main Street received hate mail and a threatening phone call. Morris wrote she could not attribute either of those acts to Misch and noted the cases remain open.

Morris declined to comment when reached on Thursday.

Misch, who represented himself in the civil proceedings, called it "a travesty of justice" when reached for comment Thursday night.

"Rep. Morris utilized the judicial system to legally silence one of her constituents, a political activist and a U.S. Army veteran who honorably served his country, including a combat deployment to Iraq," Misch wrote in an email.

Reach Edward Damon at 802-447-7567, ext. 111 or @edamon_banner.


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