A Russian student accused of building bombs in his Juniata apartment will remain behind bars for now.
Magisterial District Judge Jeffrey Auker denied a motion to reduce Vladislav Miftakhov's bail Wednesday when the 18-year-old Penn State Altoona engineering student from San Carlos, Calif., appeared at Central Court, where he had been scheduled for a preliminary hearing on charges that include felony possessing weapons of mass destruction and risking a catastrophe counts.
Auker agreed with Blair County District Attorney Richard Consiglio that Miftakhov's $500,000 cash bail, set by Magisterial District Judge Craig Ormsby after Miftakhov's arrest Jan. 24, was appropriate given the seriousness of the charges.
"We submit he lives in California, has no ties to Pennsylvania - although he was a student - but he came in on a train, and his parents live in California," Consiglio said of concerns Miftakhov might flee if he were given a lower bail and secure his release from Blair County Prison. "There's a risk of not being able to find him if he chooses to go to California."
Consiglio said the safety of the community was also paramount, given the allegations Miftakhov had a suitcase full of bomb-making materials, as well as two homemade explosive devices in his apartment at 118 N. Ninth Ave.
Miftakhov's defense attorney, Robert Donaldson, pointed out that as a Russian citizen, Miftakhov has every incentive to comply with the court and show up for future court proceedings because not doing so would risk certain deportation to a country he's not visited since Miftakhov was 4 years old.
"The reason for bail is to ensure the person is going to show up for court, not as punishment," Donaldson said.
His client comes from a good family - both his parents hold doctorate degrees - and he has no criminal record. Even the charges he faces, Donaldson said, sound more menacing than really are given that the amount of jail time his client could receive if convicted on the most serious charge is only about six months.
Donaldson said while the charges are serious, he stressed there's more to the story.
"I think once the facts come out, people will see a different side of this," Donaldson said.
Consiglio said prosecutors want to see Miftakhov spend time in prison, and state police continue to look into the evidence taken from the apartment, which court records said includes various alleged materials used in making explosives, as well as two cellphones and two computers.
Consiglio said Altoona police, who arrested Miftakhov after officers found a suspected marijuana growing operation at the apartment, are working with the state police and federal authorities in the case. Whether prosecutors charge Miftakhov at the federal level remains to be seen, but the agencies involved have met and will likely meet again to discuss the case, Consiglio said.
"Obviously, we're very concerned for a case like this," Consiglio said.
Mirror Staff Writer Greg Bock is at 946-7458.