A local attorney has volunteered to represent pro-bono the Penn State Altoona student charged this weekend with making a bomb in his apartment.
"I don't officially represent him yet," said Bob Donaldson, a Penn State alumnus who may learn today if he will be the lawyer for Vladislav Miftakhov, who's charged with possession of a weapon of mass destruction and risking a catastrophe, based on a homemade bomb and bomb-making materials found in his Juniata apartment when police came to investigate an alleged marijuana-growing operation.
Donaldson - who is active in Penn State affairs and frequently represents the university's students pro bono - met Miftakhov for hours Sunday at Blair County Prison, where Miftakhov is housed in lieu of $500,000 straight bail, and found him "articulate, intelligent and focused on his education."
"He needs help," the attorney said. "Somebody to listen."
A freshman engineering student, Miftakhov wants to be an industrial engineer and a useful member of society, Donaldson said.
"I was impressed," he said, adding that Miftakhov nevertheless "realized these charges are very serious."
Whether Donaldson becomes his attorney may depend on the Russian consulate, as consulates generally get involved in cases involving international defendants, according to Donaldson.
Miftakhov, 18 (initial police reports listed him as 19), was born in Moscow, but came to the U.S. at age 4, Donaldson said.
His mother and step-father live in northern California, he said.
His mother, Jane, reached by phone, politely declined to talk to the Mirror.
"I would like not to speak, understand," she said.
Miftakhov is being treated like a regular inmate at the prison, which includes being housed by himself for the first 48 hours, Donaldson said.
Altoona Police Chief Janice Freehling declined to provide additional details of the case Sunday evening.
But Kelly Kochamba, spokeswoman for the FBI office in Pittsburgh, said her agency is trying to determine whether the weekend findings in Juniata represent "any type of terrorism."
The agency is focused "on the immediate threat," she said.
The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms & Explosives is also involved, lending technical assistance to city police and state police, said ATF spokesman Steve Bartholomew.
Police have seized much of the contents of the apartment, including his computer, according to Miftakhov's landlord, Bill Kitt.
The police have secured the place, and he intends to leave it that way, pending further instructions from them and consultation with his attorney, he said.
If the defendant's family reaches out, he expects there should be no problem with them getting the remaining items, however, he said.