Misch arrested for alleged violation

Max Misch is shown inside the Bennington courtroom during a prior court appearance.

Don't miss the big stories. Like us on Facebook.  

BENNINGTON — Professed white nationalist and gun control opponent Max Misch was arrested Saturday for an alleged violation of his release conditions on the firearms charges he faces in Bennington Superior Court Criminal Division.

According to sources, Misch was arrested for violating a court-imposed condition that he not leave the county by traveling to a bar in Hoosick Falls, N.Y.

A photo and video apparently showing Misch in the bar surfaced recently, prompting an investigation by authorities.

Misch is expected to be back in court as early as Monday on the alleged violation, which would be his second. He previously faced a violation hearing in July for allegedly purchasing a new firearm in violation of his conditions.

At that hearing, he was released by Judge William Cohen without bail but with additional conditions — a ruling that prompted a resident to protest in the courtroom over the lack of bail and spurred further criticism on social media.

Misch, 36, faces two misdemeanor counts of possessing illegal high-capacity 30-round firearm magazines. If convicted, he could receive a maximum penalty of up to a year in prison and a $500 fine on each charge.

None of the law enforcement officials involved in the matter could be reached Sunday to discuss the arrest, which according to sources, was activated at the local level involving Bennington police and the Bennington County State's Attorney's office.

The office of Attorney General T.J. Donovan, which is prosecuting the gun control law violations against Misch, also could not be reached for comment.

Ripped on social media

Meanwhile, the Bennington PD has been raked on social media for the lack of an arrest over the alleged violation, after VTdigger.org posted an article about the video of Misch on Thursday.

Still photos also have been sent to the media, one received by the Banner showing Misch standing near two other men in what appears to be a Hoosick Falls bar earlier this month.

A recent Facebook post on Bennington County Democratic Party Chairman Aaron Sawyer's page said in part: "As it's clear Chief Doucette and his department have no intention of performing their duties, it's probably time to replace him. If the selectboard can truly respond in real time, perhaps you can ask Chief Doucette's direct oversight to direct the Chief and his department to DO THEIR JOBS."

Sawyer's comments prompted further criticism of the BPD and Doucette.

But according to non-law enforcement sources in Bennington, local police were prepared to arrest Misch more than a week ago but were told to hold off by the Attorney General's office because of some type of potential complication in the prosecution of the gun law charges against Misch.

Support our journalism. Subscribe today. →

In effect, one local official said, the Bennington police department was taking criticism for not making an arrest, when they had been prepared to do so but were being asked by the AG's office not to arrest Misch at this time and to refer all comment about the case to the state office.

Simultaneously, the official said, the AG's Office had not explained the reason for the delay.

Local officials also noted that the Bennington Select Board voted this month to hire the International Association of Chiefs of Police to conduct a review of BPD policies and procedures with a focus on possible racial bias issues.

Such a review had been suggested by Donovan in February after the Bennington department was criticized by civil rights groups and others for not arresting anyone over several complaints of harassment or threats filed by former Rep. Kiah Morris of Bennington, who ended her campaign for another term in September 2018 citing online and other threats.

The local officials said the department was being unfairly painted as failing to act on a complaint involving racial issues, despite recently agreeing to fund a $66,000 study of local police procedures.

Misch has admitted to "trolling" Morris, who is African American, both online and during public appearances.

Neither the BPD nor the AG's office and the state police computer crimes unit initially found grounds to charge Misch or anyone else with a crime on those complaints. But in January a state police investigation of the magazine purchases in New Hampshire led to the current charges.

Doucette has maintained that his department investigated every complaint filed by Morris from 2016 through 2018 but did not find enough evidence to support criminal charges.

Neither Doucette nor State's Attorney Erica Marthage has commented on the alleged violations by Misch since the initial report of the bar video. The AGs office also has declined further comment.

Misch's lawyers previously filed a motion to have the gun law charges dismissed because of alleged conflicts between the 2018 law provision with the Vermont and U.S. constitutions, but Cohen in June rejected that motion.

Since then, attorneys for both sides have sent a joint request to the Vermont Supreme Court seeking a determination on the constitutional questions raised prior to any disposition of Misch's case.

Misch is charged with buying two 30-round magazines in New Hampshire after the new provision took effect in October. The provision was part of the gun control legislation signed in April 2018 by Gov. Phil Scott, and Misch is believed to be the first person charged under the magazine provision.

Jim Therrien writes for New England Newspapers in Southern Vermont, including the Bennington Banner, Brattleboro Reformer and Manchester Journal. Twitter: @BB_therrien