Weapons of Mass Destruction
On Friday, January 24, 2014, Vladislav Miftakhov, a 19 year old Engineering student at the Penn State University, Altoona Campus, was arrested and charged with Possession of Weapons of Mass Destruction and related offenses. According to a report by 6 ABC news in Philadelphia, Miftakhov, was under suspicion for operating a marijuana grow operation at his home. When the police entered the target location they allegedly found a bomb which they dismantled. The article also reports that they found a suitcase containing explosive related materials which the defendant stated that he had purchased online over the previous few weeks.
The statute under which this defendant is charged is entitled Weapons of Mass Destruction and is found at 18 Pa.C.S.A. § 2716. This is a relatively new criminal statute which was enacted in 2002 as a legislative attempt to address bombings and other acts of terrorism that are unfortunately becoming more frequent in recent years. Simple possession of a Weapon of Mass Destruction, as opposed to causing harm by such a device, is graded as a Felony of the Second Degree, which carries a maximum penalty of 3 ½ to 7 years incarceration provided that it is the defendant’s first offense under the statute. A Weapon of Mass Destruction is defined as a “Biological agent, bomb, chemical agent, or nuclear agent.” Those categories are further defined as follows:
Biological agent. A natural or genetically engineered pathogen, toxin, virus, bacteria, prion, fungus or microorganism which causes infections, disease or bodily harm.
Bomb. An explosive device used for unlawful purposes.
Chemical agent. Any of the following:
(1) A nerve agent, including tabun (GA), sarin (GB), soman (GD), GF and VX.
(2) A choking agent, including phosgene (CG) and diphosgene (DP).
(3) A blood agent, including hydrogen cyanide (AC), cyanogen chloride (CK) and arsine (SA).
(4) A blister agent. This paragraph includes:
(i) Mustard (H).
(ii) Sulfur mustard (HD).
(v) Nitrogen mustard (HN-3).
(vi) An arsenical, such as lewisite (L).
(vii) An urticant, such as CX.
(viii) An incapacitating agent, such as B2.
(5) Any other chemical element or compound which causes death or bodily harm.
Nuclear agent. A radioactive material.
Weapon of mass destruction. A biological agent, bomb, chemical agent or nuclear agent.
This case gives rise to many interesting questions such as, what exactly was the object that the defendant is alleged to have had? Was it truly a bomb? Where the materials that the defendant allegedly utilized to make the device innocent in and of themselves as opposed to when they are placed in combination with other materials? Did the defendant make any statements which evidence his true intentions? Does the fact that the Defendant is an Engineering student play any part in his activities in this case? The answers to these questions will obviously have to wait until more information is provided by the police authorities. Miftakov is currently being held in the Blair County prison in lieu of $500,000.00 bail. In addition to the aforementioned weapons charges he is also charged with Drug related offenses. His Preliminary Hearing is scheduled for February 5, 2014.