BURLINGTON — A Rutland felon charged with stealing and possessing a $2,650 firearm from a local attorney received a quick lesson on Wednesday in the differences between bail laws used for defendants in Vermont courts and federal courts.
Nicholas E. Karov, 38, was sentenced to jail after a federal prosecutor noted the defendant had 35 criminal charges pending in state court and had 18 prior non-appearance cases to various Vermont audiences.
Federal magistrate Kevin Doyle agreed with the government that Karov was a danger to the community and a risk to flee to avoid prosecution. Doyle, in ordering that Karov be detained by the US Marshals Service, noted that the defendant also had two escape convictions on his 20-plus-year criminal record.
The federal ruling stood in stark contrast to the “catch and release” system that Vermont courts have often come under public criticism. Karov was released on bail on all three charges against the state in the same case on Monday.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Jonathan Ophardt asked Doyle not to rely on the state court’s decision to allow Karov’s bail. Ophardt noted that Vermont courts do not consider community safety or certain types of crimes — important factors permitted under federal bail law.
Deputy federal defender Mary Nerino said Karov should be released on the same terms as the state charges in this case.
Acting Rutland County State’s Attorney Ian Sullivan had asked Vermont Superior Court Judge David Bara on Monday to hold Karov for lack of $5,000 bail – the same amount Judge Megan ordered. Shafritz when the suspect was arrested Friday night.
Bara reduced bail to $1,200 and made it concurrent with bail imposed in previous pending cases, so Karov – who was appearing via video from Marble Valley Correctional Center in Rutland – could be released again without spending more money.
Karov was never able to leave Marble Valley. The federal system has expressed an interest in filing two criminal charges against him before he can get out.
A Homeland Security Investigations Special Agent, assigned to the Rutland Police Department, filed an affidavit accusing him of knowingly possessing a stolen firearm and knowingly being a convicted felon in possession of a firearm.
Karov is listed as a felon with three convictions, including one for child luring sexual exploitation in 2009, records show. Doyle noted that some of Karov’s criminal history also includes failing to comply with Vermont Sex Registry provisions.
The firearm was a .45 caliber CMMG Banshee pistol with magazine. He said he paid about $1,750 for the weapon and another $900 for the Trijicon Optic sight, police said.
In state court on Monday, Karov pleaded not guilty to felony grand larceny for stealing a gun and scope from a truck belonging to Rutland attorney Matthew Hart.
Karov also denied two state offences: possession of a firearm after being convicted of a violent crime and violation of parole conditions while in possession of a firearm, and for drinking beer, according to the court records.
Karov did not plead in federal court on Wednesday. No plea is requested until there is a formal indictment in a federal case.
Doyle told Karov he was entitled to a probable cause hearing on Nov. 15, but would lose it if a federal grand jury returned an indictment and determined there were probable grounds to believe. that a crime had been committed.
Hart called Rutland police around 5:15 p.m. Friday to tell them he had arrested a man who was trying to steal a gun, court records show. Hart reported he had left the Two Sheas bar on Wales Street and was heading back to his lorry when he saw a man standing on the driver’s side running board and his arm fully inside, the officer reported Oscar Menjivar.
Hart said he yelled at the man, who fled into the pit parking lot, police said. When Hart caught up with the suspect, he had the lawyer’s big handgun, Menjivar said in a court affidavit. Hart ordered him to drop the gun, but Karov made a rude remark and pointed the gun at him, police said.
Hart, a United States Marine Corps combat veteran, said he grabbed the barrel and during the scuffle was able to pull Karov’s gun out and throw it aside.
Hart detained Karov for the police. Hart reported the gun had no cartridge in the chamber when he left it, but after retrieving it from Karov it had a cartridge in the chamber, police said.
Karov had what appeared to be two black eyes when he appeared on video from Rutland prison on Wednesday.
Karov told police his plan was to trade the gun for drugs or sell it to get money to buy drugs, Menjivar said in his affidavit. Karov admitted that he had used heroin earlier in the day. Karov is known to police for frequenting known drug venues, particularly 121 Robbins St., Menjivar wrote.
Karov also told police he knew it was illegal for him to own a firearm because of his criminal record, Menjivar said.
According to the National Crime Information Center’s computerized index, ongoing criminal cases include: heroin possession/retail theft/reckless endangerment (October 2020, arrest); non-registration as a sex offender (December 2020, arrest); criminal burglary (March 2021, arrest); reckless endangerment and retail theft (August 2021, arrest); non-registration as a sex offender (November 2021, arrest); petty larceny and credit card fraud (November 2021, arrest, with three separate records indicating multiple criminal occurrences); petty theft (November 2021, arrest); felony of unlawful intrusion into an occupied residence (November 2021, arrest); crime of non-compliance with the sex offender register (July 2022, arrest); misdemeanor unlawful trespass (September 2022, arrest); and breach of release conditions (Oct. 11, 2022, arrest).