Misch released without bail after new charges
BENNINGTON — Max Misch, a local white nationalist and opponent of gun control, was once again released without having to post bail following an appearance Monday in Bennington County Superior Court to answer new accusations of violating conditions of his release.
Misch, 36, of Bennington, violated conditions that prohibited him from leaving Bennington County without the court's permission and from contacting his ex-wife Lisa Shapiro, the Vermont Attorney General's Office alleged in court papers.
Misch, wearing an American flag tie and an Iraq War veteran cap that he removed during the brief court appearance, pleaded not guilty to the two charges. He declined to comment on the cases.
Monday's hearing marked the second time in as many months that prosecutors have accused Misch of violating the conditions of his release on two misdemeanor charges filed in February related to his alleged purchase of illegal, large-capacity ammunition devices. Prosecutors accused Misch last month of buying a gun at a Bennington store in March, an alleged violation of release conditions imposed in February. He has pleaded not guilty to that charge as well as to the older charges.
On Saturday, Aug. 10, a patron photographed and filmed Misch at a restaurant in Hoosick Falls, New York, according to an affidavit written by Bennington Police Department Detective Lawrence Cole. In a 22-minute video recorded by the person, who recognized Misch and was aware of his conditions of release, Misch "acknowledged he was not supposed to leave the State of Vermont," according to the affidavit.
The affidavit says that the person contacted James Lawton, the husband of former state Rep. Kiah Morris, an African-American woman who Misch has admitted to trolling around the time she filed complaints of racially motivated harassment and threats. Vermont Attorney General T.J. Donovan announced in January that Morris was a "victim of racial harassment" but found no grounds for criminal charges.
Lawton contacted Cole, the Bennington police detective, who later interviewed the person who recorded Misch at the restaurant, according to the affidavit.
The other new charge — that Misch contacted Shapiro, his ex-wife, in contravention of a condition of his release — was added as an additional count to the release-violation docket created last month. In a sworn statement to police in early July, Shapiro said, "I've received phone calls from 'No Caller ID' and [Misch] was on the other end."
Vermont Assistant Attorney General Ultan Doyle asked Judge David Howard to impose $200 bail for each new charge, a request Misch's attorney, Frederick Bragdon, opposed.
"Mr. Misch is not avoiding coming to court," Bragdon said.
Howard sided with the defense, stating that Misch's ties to the area and continued appearance in court suggest he is not a flight risk. "The court still cannot find that the requirements of setting bail" have been met, he said. The judge amended Misch's conditions of release to ban him from contacting the man who filmed him at the Hoosick Falls restaurant.
Reached by phone on Monday afternoon, Vermont Attorney General T.J. Donovan said his office respects the judge's ruling on bail and will continue to prosecute the matter.
In July, at the request of both Misch's counsel and the attorney general's office, a state Superior Court judge asked the state Supreme Court to evaluate the constitutionality of the ammunition-related statute under which Misch was charged in February.
At Misch's arraignment last month on the first alleged conditions violation, Shawn Pratt, an African American man, loudly called for Misch to be remanded in custody after Judge William Cohen declined to impose any amount of bail despite a request from the attorney general's office. Pratt did not attend the hearing on Monday.
In the courtroom hallway before his court appearance Monday, Misch told a woman holding a baby that the baby didn't look like her.
The woman, Elizabeth Veach, 25, replied, "That's because her father is black," she later told the Banner.
Misch acknowledged making the remark. "I'm against miscegenation," he said, using a term associated with state laws that criminalized interracial marriage, which the U.S. Supreme Court found unconstitutional decades ago.
"I told him that he was very racist," Veach said.
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