Attorney requests bomb suspect’s release

JOHNSTOWN – The attorney for a teenager facing federal charges for making explosive devices while attending Penn State Altoona has asked U.S. District Judge Kim Gibson to reaffirm a decision made last week by a federal magistrate to grant him bail.

Vladislav Miftakhov, 18, is “a bright young man, who comes from a loving family,” stated staff attorney Christopher Brown of the federal Public Defender’s Office in Pittsburgh.

Brown submitted a legal brief to Gibson late Tuesday asking him to grant Miftakhov’s release to his mother in San Carlos, Calif., pending the outcome of the charges filed against him on Feb. 6 in the U.S. District Court.

U.S. Magistrate Keith Pesto held a preliminary review of the charges that Miftakhov possessed two unregistered explosive devices in his apartment near Penn State Altoona.

Prosecutor James Kitchen asked that Miftakhov be detained in jail pending the outcome of his case because he is a flight risk, living in California and being a citizen of Russia.

Kitchen said Miftakhov is a danger to the community, another reason for keeping him at the Cambria County Prison without bail.

During the Feb. 6 hearing, Brown argued that the prosecution wanted Miftakhov kept in prison because of the similarities between his case and that of one of the Boston Marathon bombing suspects last year, who also was a college student and a native of Russia.

Pesto found that the Miftakhov case did not bear a resemblance to the Boston Marathon bombing and said he could be set free on bail, although he will be confined to his California home and is to undergo a mental health examination.

After Pesto concluded Miftakhov is not a danger, Kitchen filed an appeal asking Gibson to overrule Pesto and deny bail.

Blair County District Attorney Richard A. Consiglio lashed out at Pesto’s decision.

He said police not only found unregistered explosive devices in a suitcase in Miftakhov’s apartment but also located a tightly wrapped note in a .44-caliber shell that stated, “If you find this, you will never find me.”

Consiglio called it “an ominous, dark note.”

Miftakhov was labeled by the prosecution as a “loner.”

In his response to Kitchen’s petition, Brown took issue with the prosecution’s view of the case.

Police, he said, “seek detention by portraying this young man as something he is not and by overstating the seriousness of his conduct.”

He attached photos of Miftakhov with his siblings and his father and stepmother. A photo showed him with friends and family.

The defense argues that Miftakhov is not a loner, has many friends and comes from a large family. His parents and stepfather are well-educated. His father, Valery, is described as “a lawful permanent resident of the United States and is head of a division at one of the world’s largest tech companies.”

Statements from friends called Miftakhov intelligent, inquisitive and patient.

Miftakhov had a 3.47 grade-point average in high school and was on scholarship to Penn State Altoona, studying electrical engineering.

Brown concluded Miftakhov “imposes no risk of danger to the community.”

Gibson could make a decision in the case based on the legal briefs filed by each side or he could schedule another hearing.

The explosive devices and bomb-making materials were found Jan. 24 when Altoona police were checking out a complaint from the landlord that Miftakhov might have been growing marijuana in his apartment.

When the explosive material was found, Miftakhov initially told police he was making fireworks but then said he wanted to blow things up.

Mirror Staff Writer Phil Ray is at 946-7468.