Indictment delayed for bomb suspect
Judge has twice postponed filing
of formal charges
By Phil Ray
JOHNSTOWN – Federal authorities have delayed filing a formal criminal indictment against former Penn State Altoona freshman Vladislav Miftakhov, who has been detained at the Cambria County Prison for allegedly having two explosive devices and bomb-making materials in his Altoona apartment.
U.S. District Judge Kim Gibson ordered Miftakhov detained on a charge of unlawful receipt, possession or making of an unregistered firearm or destructive device on Feb. 28.
The 18-year-old engineering student from San Carlos, Calif., was arrested by Altoona police in January after police said they received a complaint that Miftakhov was growing marijuana in his apartment building. When police arrived and began to search for drugs, they allegedly found a suitcase with the bomb-making material.
Further investigation led police to contend that Miftakhov had been actively experimenting with explosives in both Altoona and California.
Because Gibson found Miftakhov a possible danger to the community and a flight risk – he remains a Russian citizen – discussions have been underway between Assistant U.S. Attorney James Kitchen and Assistant Federal Public Defender Christopher Brown, for the defense.
Federal procedure requires that a criminal information or a grand jury indictment listing the formal charges be filed within 30 days from an arrest.
In the Miftakhov case, the filing of formal charges has twice been delayed by Gibson at the request of the prosecution and defense attorneys.
As in the state courts, suspects in federal cases are entitled to speedy trials, but in the Miftakhov case, both sides have requested a delay because discussions are ongoing as to the charges Miftakhov will face.
A spokeswoman for the U.S. Attorney’s office in Pittsburgh was asked if the discussions could mean that a plea agreement was being considered. She said the U.S. attorney would rest on the court record as to what is occurring rather than labeling it as a plea agreement.
The court records show Gibson initially granted a 30-day delay in the filing of charges.
That time period expired on Monday, but the judge this week granted an extension until April 24.
Gibson’s order on Wednesday stated that, “Specifically, the court finds the ends of justice served by granting this continuance outweigh the best interests of the public and the defendant to a speedy trial.”
The parties, he stated, need additional time to “consider and discuss the charges which may be set forth in the indictment.”
“Failure to grant this continuance in the proceeding would be likely to result in a miscarriage of justice. …” he concluded.
Miftakhov, the judge stated, waived his right to indictment within the 30-day limit.
“Failure to grant a continuance would deny counsel the time necessary for effective preparation prior to formal charges being filed,” according to Gibson.
Kitchen and Brown are “actively engaged” in discussions regarding charges to be included in the information or indictment, Gibson stated.
Blair County District Attorney Richard A. Consiglio agreed to the federal prosecution of Miftakhov, but the Blair DA was miffed when U.S. Magistrate Keith Pesto in early February approved Miftakhov’s release, allowing him to live at the
home of his mother in California.
Prosecutors asked Gibson to overrule the magistrate’s decision, which he did on Feb. 28.
Testimony before Gibson focused on Miftakhov’s interest in making bombs and in his contacting anarchist websites; the judge concluded Miftakhov
was a danger to the community.
The defense portrayed Miftakhov as a smart young man from a good family, who until just a couple months ago was legally a juvenile.
Mirror Staff Writer Phil Ray is at 946-7468.