PAWLET — Daniel Banyai has secured legal counsel and is appealing the Environmental Court ruling that he shut down the Slate Ridge shooting facility and deconstruct all the work he has put into it.
On May 7, Pawlet town attorney Merrill Bent said that Banyai had retained attorney Cindy Hill and had appealed the Environmental Court ruling against him.
Reached by phone, Hill confirmed that Banyai had retained her services to handle the appeal.
Hill said they had filed the timely notice of appeal and that is all that has happened on the case.
She declined to comment any further on any aspect of the case.
According to her website, Hill has worked for “towns, non-profits, neighbors, and other ordinary people in need of legal assistance in state and federal courts since 1987.”
The bio said Hill has served on her town Select Board, as a zoning administrator and represented citizen’s groups all way to the U.S. Supreme Court and has defended people in state and federal court and on appeal and written dozens of municipal bylaws.
Bent said that Hill was only representing Banyai for the Environmental Court appeal, and Hill was not representing him in regard to the defense of the civil contempt case.
Bent filed civil contempt charges against Banyai after he held his Second Amendment Picnic in mid-April, where an estimated 50 to 100 people showed up.
That contempt motion was filed April 21 after Banyai held the picnic on the Slate Ridge property that included the shooting of guns, which the town alleged violated the court-ordered injunction against continuing such activities on his property.
But while Bent requested an in-person hearing for civil contempt to compel testimony on the issues, the court deferred ruling on the contempt motion because Banyai’s appeal of the original decision was pending before the Supreme Court and needed to be heard first.
That prompted a tweet on the Slate Ridge Twitter account, “Great news. No contempt of court. Classes back on. Sign up today.”
Bent said there had been no finding by the court, only the deferral on ruling on the contempt motion.
“The Town may request reconsideration of the deferral,” Bent said in an email. “Importantly, the injunction is still in place during the appeal, so the Order to not conduct training remains in place.”
Banyai has continued to use his social media accounts to advertise a National Rifle Association Range Safety Officer class at Slate Ridge over the past month as well as regular declarations that free range time is available.
With the contempt motion currently on hold, all eyes will be on Banyai’s appeal of the Environmental Court ruling, which said that Banyai must have the property surveyed and then tear down any improvements that were built without proper permitting.
The only permitted structure at 541 Briar Hill Road is a garage with an apartment.
Multiple videos and photos published of the Slate Ridge property show multiple buildings including a large building used for classes, a structure referred to as the dorm with room for several people with a kitchen and bathroom facilities, another building that appears to be some sort of storage or garage type structure, along with several shooting ranges and structures related to tactical shooting training.
There is also a tank identified as a jet fuel storage tank on the property and Banyai has been talking about developing ranges to train people for the defense of ships and airplanes but it’s unclear if Banyai is actually developing those training facilities.
Banyai has said several times that he has put $1.6 million into the property since he started creating Slate Ridge.
Judge Thomas Durkin also assessed fines of $46,600 and banned Banyai from opening Slate Ridge for any shooting or classes.
At one point in late April, Bent wrote an email to Banyai concerning the name of the surveyor if he had one as required by the Environmental Court ruling.
Banyai responded, “We have told you on numerous occasions to not correspond with us directly. You are a racist b-- — that is a narcissist and controlling constitutionalist. For the last time while your entitlement serves you and the rest of the racist in this community no accountability cease and desist from contacting me directly. [sic]”
Bent responded, “You are a party to the proceeding, and I am an attorney for the other party. If you prefer not to communicate with me, perhaps just put me in touch with the surveyor directly, or hire an attorney to do the communication for you. Either way, we need to get this work done.”
To which Banyai wrote, “You are not my boss c- — you are a piece of s- — racist low life with daddy issues. Your messages threaten me. F- — you.”
Since the ruling, Banyai has continued his bellicose online presence, regularly posting about people who set him off, including Bent, neighbors, a man Banyai accused of taking photos at the picnic, and others he has issues with.
He’s also gotten more secretive, restricting access to most of his social media accounts to only people he trusts and, according to several reports, banning or blocking people whom he believes might be sharing information about his activities.
Back in Pawlet, Banyai had applied for a permit to build a one-room school that matched almost identically one of the structures he already has on his property.
Pawlet’s Interim Zoning Administrator Jonas Rosenthal said the application received one appeal on April 14, and there would be a Development Review Board hearing on the appeal.
That turned out to not be necessary because at an April 26 Pawlet Planning Commission meeting, Rosenthal said Banyai’s permit had been denied but he still had time to appeal.
Banyai’s criminal court case in New York was again delayed in that state.
Banyai faces a charge of criminal possession of a weapon. Banyai originally pleaded guilty to a reduced charge according to New York officials, but the case has been repeatedly delayed for nearly six months.
That may be affecting Banyai’s Federal Firearms License status. An FFL is required to buy or sell guns commercially or across state lines.
Banyai’s FFL registered under his company name Honvend Security Solutions, originally expired Feb. 1.
But Banyai was granted a “Letter of Authorizations” from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives. An LOA allows an FFL holder to continue business operations under the current license while the ATF processes the renewal application beyond the expiration date.
Banyai’s current LOA, which was issued April 7, expires Oct. 6.