Federal Judge Orders Russian National WMD Suspect Released on Bail

Vladislav Miftakhov, the 18-year-old Russian national who was arrested on January 24 and charged by Pennsylvania authorities with several state felonies for possessing "weapons of mass destruction," was granted his release on bail Tuesday by a federal judge. 

The Altoona Mirror reported that U.S. Magistrate Judge Keith Pesto "stated Miftakhov would be permitted to go home with his mother, Evguenia 'Jane' Miftakhov of San Carlos, Calif. His mother and father, Valery, live within a mile of each other."

Pesto delayed the release until federal prosecutors had an opportunity to appeal the decision. United States Attorney James Kitchen argued in the appeal heard Wednesday by Federal District Judge Kim Gibson that Miftakhov was a flight risk and should not be released. According to the Associated Press, Kitchen told the court that Miftakhov "is on probation for juvenile court burglary-related charges in California, uses drugs, and has too few ties to Pennsylvania to guarantee he won't flee."

The Associated Press reported that Miftakhov turned 18 in November, which makes 1995 his year of birth. The Altoona Mirror reported that he was born in Russia and came to the United States when he was four years old, which places his date of entry between November 1999 and November 2000. His current immigration status is legal permanent resident, but not citizen.

Miftakhov lived with his mother, Evguenia, step-father, and several siblings in San Carlos, California, until he enrolled as a freshman engineering student at Penn State-Altoona in the fall of 2013. Breitbart News reported earlier that Miftakhov graduated in 2013 from Carlmont High School, a public high school located in Belmont, California, which residents of San Carlos also attend.

Miftakhov was scheduled for a hearing last Wednesday in the courtroom of Blair County Magisterial District Judge Jeffrey Auker on the state charges, but that hearing was cancelled at the last minute. On Thursday, federal authorities announced that they were taking over the case and filed charges against Miftakhov in federal court.

Breitbart News reported that Miftakhov had been represented by attorney Robert Donaldson on the state charges. On Thursday, however, federal Public Defender Chris Brown became Miftakhov's attorney representing him on the federal charges.

On Thursday, the Department of Justice charged Miftakhov "with making and possessing unregistered destructive devices." The possession of weapons of mass destruction was specifically a state, rather than federal, charge. Since the state is no longer handling the case, those charges are not currently being prosecuted.

At the time, Blair County District Attorney Richard Consiglio said the federal takeover was a good thing. Consiglio told WJAC-TV that the case is so large it has "the potential to harm so many people that it was best to be handled at the federal level."

However, on Tuesday, after Judge Pesto's surprising decision to release Miftakhov on bail, Consiglio was not happy.

Consiglio told the Altoona Mirror "he totally disagrees with the decision of a federal magistrate to grant bail." Consiglio added, "I can't believe he's not a flight risk and a risk to the community."

According to the Mirror, if Judge Pesto's decision to grant bail is not reversed, Miftakhov "will be on home detention [in San Carlos, California] with an electronic monitoring device, but will be permitted to leave the home for a variety of reasons that include employment, education, substance abuse or mental health treatment and any other activity approved by the federal supervisor of pretrial services."

Judge Pesto also ordered that Miftakhov "participate in substance abuse therapy and undergo a mental health evaluation."

Breitbart News contacted Consiglio's office and asked if he would consider reinstating the state charges against Miftakhov in light of Judge Pesto's decision to grant bail, pending Wednesday's appeal. As of the time of this story's publication, Consiglio had not responded.

A 1968 law created the position of U.S. magistrate judge to assist federal district judges. Unlike federal district judges, who are appointed for life and subject to confirmation by the United States Senate, U.S. magistrate judges are appointed to eight year terms by the federal district judges in each district. U.S. Magistrate Judge Keith Pesto is one of less than fifty part-time U.S. magistrate judges. More than five hundred U.S. magistrate judges serve on a full-time basis.


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