DA: Bail for bomb suspect wrong
HOLLIDAYSBURG – Blair County District Attorney Richard A. Consiglio said Tuesday he totally disagrees with the decision of a federal magistrate to grant bail to 18-year-old Vladislav Miftakhov, accused of making bombs in his Juniata, Altoona, apartment.
Miftakhov is charged by federal authorities with making and possessing unregistered destructive devices, which city police found Jan. 24 when called to the apartment building where the Penn State Altoona engineering student lived with two others.
Initially, police were checking on a complaint that Miftakhov was farming marijuana plants, but officers soon discovered a suitcase with two bombs and bomb-making materials inside.
The college freshman at first told officers he was producing fireworks, but when police refused to buy that story, he said “he was going to blow things up,” according to the federal criminal complaint and testimony Monday by an agent for the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives.
Among the items discovered were 42 empty compressed gas containers that the agent believed were to be filled with explosives as well as a note rolled tightly inside a .44-caliber shell.
Under Miftakhov’s signature, it said, “If you find this, you will never find me.”
Consiglio called that piece of evidence “an ominous dark note.”
Miftakhov, a native of Russia who came to America when he was 4 years old and resides in California, is a “legal, permanent resident” of the United States, but is not a citizen.
“I can’t believe he’s not a flight risk and a risk to the community,” Consiglio said.
In a hearing Monday before U.S. Magistrate Keith Pesto in Johnstown, the prosecution, led by U.S. Attorney James Kitchen, asked Miftakhov be detained for trial, but federal Public Defender Chris Brown said the facts showed Miftakhov was a “scared kid” whose alleged bomb-making activities was little more than a phase that many young men approaching adulthood experience.
Pesto, concluding that Miftakhov was not a fledgling Boston Marathon Bomber, said a case had not been made to detain him, or hold him without bail.
In an order issued Tuesday, 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.
He will be on home detention 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.
He is to participate in substance abuse therapy and undergo a mental health evaluation, Pesto ordered.
Bail has not yet been set.
Pesto’s bail release order remains on hold because the U.S. Attorney will ask federal District Judge Kim Gibson in Johnstown to reverse the decision.
“I hope Judge Gibson takes a close look at this,” Consiglio said.
Consiglio said the discovery of the bomb-making materials by city police prevented what said could have been a “catastrophe,” whether “intentional or unintentional.”
He said he respects Pesto, who is a former Blair County assistant district attorney, stating he has known him for a long time.
But, he said, “I’m just surprised he would make that decision.”
Testimony Monday depicted Miftakhov as a “loner,” which the district attorney said is the description often used by people who are stunned when someone commits a violent act.
“How many times you hear that after they blow up a school or parade?” he asked.
The Blair DA was particularly upset with the public defender making light of the Miftakhov situation, arguing to Pesto, “This is what boys do.”
Consiglio has had bitter disagreements with the federal public defender’s office in the past, and he said Tuesday the federal defenders are “anti-victim, anti-law enforcement and amoral as far as I am concerned.”
Mirror Staff Writer Phil Ray is at 946-7468.