Misch pleads not guilty to violating release conditions

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BENNINGTON — Max Misch, a self-described white nationalist accused of possessing illegal, large-capacity ammunition devices, has pleaded not guilty to violating the conditions of his release on those charges.

Misch, 36, of Bennington, wearing a T-shirt that read "F--- GUN CONTROL," was arraigned Monday afternoon in Vermont Superior Court, Bennington Criminal Division. The new charge carries a penalty of no more than six months of imprisonment and a $1,000 fine.

According to a police affidavit filed in court, Misch purchased a handgun for $350 at the Bennington Armory on Main Street on March 30, nearly two months after a judge forbade him from doing so. An employee at the Armory told police "that they were holding the firearm for Max until his court case cleared up," the sworn statement says.

Misch's ex-wife, Lisa Shapiro, told police about the purchase earlier this month, according to the affidavit.

On Monday Judge William D. Cohen ordered Misch to adhere to his existing conditions of release and not to "enter any place [where] the primary business is selling firearms or dangerous/deadly weapons." But he did not impose bail, despite a request by the Attorney General's Office, which is prosecuting both cases.

"The defendant has violated probably the most salient and important condition of release," said Assistant Attorney General John Waszak, who asked the judge to impose $200 bail.

Misch's attorney, Frederick Bragdon, countered that Misch had continued to show up for court. The attorney acknowledged that "a no-buy provision" was included in Misch's conditions of release, but argued that "the key here is whether or not it's in his hands, for the purposes of public safety."

One member of the public present in the courtroom on Monday afternoon objected to what he perceived as the court's overly lenient treatment of Misch.

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"This is unfair," Shawn Pratt, of Bennington, said loudly at the end of Misch's hearing. "He should be locked up." Pratt and Misch exchanged heated words in the courtroom before Pratt was escorted out.

Appeal Granted

Cohen has granted a joint motion by the Attorney General's Office and Misch's counsel that asked the lower court to seek a determination from the state Supreme Court on the constitutionality of the high-capacity-magazine ban, part of a suite of gun control measures passed by state lawmakers last year.

The ban's constitutionality "is an issue of sufficient importance to justify reporting the matter to the Supreme Court," Judge Cohen wrote in a one-page decision dated July 19.

Cohen previously ruled that the provision does not violate the Vermont Constitution, though he acknowledged in the July 19 decision that he had been forced "to turn to out-of-state and federal cases for guidance."

If the Supreme Court "finds the statute unconstitutional," Judge Cohen noted, "the charges against Mr. Misch would have to be dismissed, as these are based solely on the challenged statute."

The appellate court will determine whether the magazine ban contravenes two articles of the Vermont Constitution, including one related to the right to bear arms.

Misch has acknowledged trolling former state Rep. Kiah Morris online and at public events during the time she filed complaints of racially motivated harassment and threats.

Morris, who is African American, abandoned her campaign for another term in the Vermont House and shortly afterward resigned in September 2018. The attorney general's office concluded that the former lawmaker suffered from racial harassment, but found no grounds for criminal charges.


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