On March 21, 2024

Daniel Banyai, owner of Slate Ridge, facing new charges following arrest in Pawlet

Courtesy of Vermont State Police

Daniel Banyai

 

By Ethan Weinstein and Diane Derby/VTDigger

Daniel Banyai, owner of the controversial former Pawlet gun range and paramilitary training facility known as Slate Ridge, was charged Wednesday with aggravated assault on a protected person and resisting arrest after a traffic stop led to an altercation with a Pawlet constable, according to Vermont State Police.

Banyai is scheduled to be arraigned Thursday afternoon, March 21, in Rutland Superior criminal court. He was held overnight at Marble Valley Regional Correctional Facility for lack of $15,000 bail, according to a state police press release issued Wednesday night.

Banyai, 50, has had an active arrest warrant since last year after an Environmental Court judge found him in contempt of court orders to dismantle unpermitted structures on his Slate Ridge property. He was ordered to turn himself in to the Vermont Department of Corrections.

Banyai remained on the lam despite continued police efforts to locate him. According to his intake report at Marble Valley, he is also facing contempt of court charges stemming from the underlying arrest warrant.

According to state police, Banyai was a passenger in a vehicle that Second Constable Tom Covino pulled over for speeding around 2:20 p.m. in Pawlet. Police said Banyai “engaged in a physical altercation” with Covino, who then used pepper spray “to gain his compliance” before arresting Banyai.

Banyai was transported to Rutland Regional Medical Center, where he was treated for what state police described as “minor injuries.” He was then taken to the Rutland state police barracks and later the Rutland jail.

Covino was evaluated by rescue personnel at the Fair Haven Police Department “for injuries arising from the altercation,” state police said.

In December, an environmental court judge reissued a warrant for Banyai’s arrest after finding him in contempt.

“The threat of incarceration is the only remaining tool at the Court’s disposal to encourage compliance,” Judge Thomas Durkin wrote in his ruling, ordering Banyai to turn himself in to the Vermont Department of Corrections by Dec. 22.

In Banyai’s absence, his attorney, Robert Kaplan, argued an appeal before the Vermont Supreme Court against the arrest warrant and more than $100,000 in fines. The state’s highest court rejected that appeal earlier this month.

Asked about next steps following Wednesday’s arrest, Merrill Bent, an attorney for the town of Pawlet, wrote in an email that “The Town is working on the next steps, but has no comment at this time regarding the specifics.”

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