On September 20, 2023

Slate Ridge standoff continues

 

Banyai’s arrest warrant expires, Pawlet files additional motions

By Ethan Weinstein/VTDigger

With the 60-day warrant for Daniel Banyai’s arrest now expired, the town of Pawlet has requested an updated warrant seeking more oversight on the Rutland County Sheriff’s Department and Vermont State Police to ensure that Banyai is detained. 

In a motion filed in state environmental court on Friday, Pawlet’s attorney, Merril Bent, said that the town had not been able to enter Banyai’s property, the militia training facility Slate Ridge, to determine whether he had brought it into compliance.

Now, Pawlet has requested the court order governing Banyai’s arrest be extended until the warrant, also called a writ of mittimus, is executed. The town explicitly asked in the request that the sheriff’s department and state police “have equal responsibility for its faithful execution.”

Banyai owns Slate Ridge, a paramilitary training facility that has invited militia groups to train on its grounds in West Pawlet. Banyai’s property has been the subject of local outrage, national media attention and yearslong legal battles.

Pawlet’s latest request demands that both the county sheriff and state police report periodically to the court under oath on their efforts to execute the warrant. The motion to update the writ also requests that both agencies be granted permission to enter Banyai’s property, and it asks the court to schedule a date by which Banyai must turn himself in to the Vermont Department of Corrections.

The town’s attorney also asked the court to order the sheriff’s department “to accompany town officials to enter the property in order to remove the remaining structures, whether or not Mr. Banyai has been taken into custody, and to arrest him if he is present.”

On Friday, Sept. 15, in response to Pawlet’s filing, Vermont Superior Court Judge Thomas Durkin, the environmental court judge in the case, said Banyai would have until Oct. 2 to respond to the town’s motion. Durkin also requested that the town submit a proposed, amended warrant this week so that “the Court may fully understand what action the town is requesting that the court take.”

Explaining the context for the town’s new request, Bent, Pawlet’s attorney, cited reporting by the Bennington Banner showing Rutland Sheriff David Fox’s apparent reluctance to arrest Banyai.

“I’m not going to ‘storm the facility’ in order to arrest Banyai,” Fox told the Banner. Later, Fox told the paper that the department had made attempts to locate Banyai.

Fox did not respond to a phone message or email requesting comment for this story.

In July, Banyai claimed compliance with court orders when he submitted documents to the court that appeared to show dismantled structures on his property. At the time, he requested the dismissal of his arrest warrant. 

Banyai’s lawyer, Robert Kaplan, told WCAX last week that his client believes he is compliant with court orders.

Last month, a federal judge dismissed a lawsuit Banyai had filed against the town of Pawlet and a state environmental court arguing officials had used zoning laws to infringe upon his rights. Banyai appealed that decision earlier this month. 

Asked about the town of Pawlet’s request for an updated warrant, state police spokesperson Adam Silverman said in an email that the agency “is not routinely required to report back to a court once an arrest warrant has been issued.”

“We are required to file a return for search warrants,” he said. “On any warrants that are issued, we will, of course, comply with all instructions from the court.”

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