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POWNAL — A 22 year-old Pownal man pleaded not guilty to threatening a family member with a knife at his home Wednesday evening.

Dustin P. Russell faces a charge of first degree aggravated domestic assault for the incident, which made the victim fear for their safety, states a Vermont State Police press release.

Russell appeared in the criminal division of the Bennington Superior Court Thursday morning to answer to the charge, for which Judge William Cohen found probable cause. Russell requested a public defender and was assigned Frederick Bragdon, court records state.

A Vermont State Police affidavit states the incident occurred after Russell became upset after he received threatening comments over Xbox Live. After becoming agitated, he picked up one of the family's pet dogs and held a knife to its throat. When the victim tried to stop him, Russell then held the knife "within a foot" of the victim's face, states the release. The victim told police they also grabbed a knife to defend themselves.

Russell dropped his knife and went to his room to grab his backpack and water, then ran out of the house. The victim told police Russell was heading to another family member's home in Pownal.

Police arrived at this home in Pownal and handcuffed Russell for his safety, states the release. When asked by police, Russell agreed to seek mental health treatment at Southwestern Vermont Medical Center. At Russell's arraignment, Cohen requested a psychiatric evaluation, a competency evaluation, and a sanity evaluation. Russell is also not allowed to have contact with the victim or enter the victim's home.

A discovery conference for Russell has been scheduled for Feb. 6 at 11 a.m.

Christie Wisniewski can be reached at cwisniewski@benningtonbanner.com and at 802-447-7567, ext. 111.


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