Misch seeks to get weapons back

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BENNINGTON — Max Misch, a white nationalist who is facing misdemeanor charges related to his alleged purchase of illegal, large-capacity magazines, has asked a court to eliminate a condition of his pretrial release that allowed Vermont State Police to take possession of his firearms.

Misch's motion, signed by his attorney Frederick Bragdon with Richard Burgoon on the brief, says that stripping him of his guns was "both unreasonable and punitive" because "the underlying charges do not involve any use or attempted use of a weapon in any manner" and the defendant "has not engaged in any subsequent violent or threatening behavior involving any weapon."

The Vermont Attorney General's Office — which is prosecuting the case and separately has alleged that Misch violated his conditions of release after the original charges were filed by purchasing a gun, leaving the state and contacting his ex-wife — opposes the newly filed motion, arguing in court papers that the condition "is necessary to protect the public."

Misch's purchase of the magazines involved crossing state lines, and his former spouse alleged that in 2016 he placed his hands around her neck, Assistant Attorney General Ultan Doyle wrote in a court filing responding to Misch's motion.

A hearing on the motion was held in Bennington County Superior Court Tuesday morning. Judge John Valente did not immediately issue a ruling.

Prosecutors and Misch's attorneys have jointly asked the Vermont Supreme Court to assess the constitutionality of the ammunition-related statute under which Misch was charged earlier this year. That appeal is pending. A local judge previously deemed the law constitutional.

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Misch has pleaded not guilty to possessing the illegal magazines and violating his conditions of release.

The motion to modify his release conditions argues that "by Vermont standards the number of weapons" Misch, a U.S. Army veteran, owned "prior to law enforcement confiscation is benign." The four weapons include a semi-automatic rifle.

The motion also claims that Misch "has been the subject of repeated threats to his personal safety" and quotes purported online comments, including one that shared his home address. The motion also includes a document written by Bennington Police Detective Lawrence Cole that describes a dispute in March 2019 between Misch and Shawn Pratt, an African American man who later appeared at one of Misch's court appearances in July and called him to be held in custody.

After Misch made racist comments to Pratt on Facebook, according to the police document, Pratt yelled, "I'll see you on the street" outside of Misch's residence while "in the area for another reason." Cole wrote that a report about the incident would be forwarded to the Bennington County State's Attorney's Office "for their review."

Reached by phone Tuesday, Pratt said he did not face any charges in connection with the incident and shared his belief that Misch is potentially dangerous.

Misch has admitted to trolling former state Rep. Kiah Morris around the time she filed complaints of racially motivated harassment and threats. Vermont Attorney General T.J. Donovan announced in January that Morris, who is African American, was a "victim of racial harassment" but found no grounds for criminal charges.

Contact Luke Nathan at lnathan@benningtonbanner.com.


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