Racetrack owner accused of holding trespassing teens at gunpoint

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RUTLAND, Vt. (WCAX) A Vermont racetrack owner faced a judge on Monday after police say he threatened three teenagers with a gun. Our Ike Bendavid went to Rutland County to get that story for you.

Michael Bruno (left)

It was right along busy Route 22 in West Haven where police say the owner of the Devil's Bowl Speedway, Mike Bruno, 48, of Castleton, took the law into his own hands when he saw three teenagers doing doughnuts in his parking lot.

After being held over the weekend, Bruno walked into the courtroom Monday and pleaded not guilty to several charges including aggravated assault, unlawful restraint and kidnapping.

"The offense conduct here is extreme and involves an immediate resort to a threat of deadly force," Rutland County Deputy State's Attorney Lei Sun said.

According to court paperwork, after the three teens drove their car and did doughnuts in the parking lot of the Devil's Bowl Speedway, the kids say Bruno chased them down in his car out of the parking lot, tried to run them off the road and blocked their car. They say he then yelled and pointed a gun at them, demanding they identify themselves and return to the speedway.

Bruno's lawyer, Brian Marsicovetere, questioned the teenagers' account.

"There are significant factual disputes as to what happened when they stopped at the side of the road and who did what," Marsicovetere said.

The state held its ground, saying Bruno had chances to not be aggressive.

"The defendant could have very easily recorded the offending vehicle's license plate and called the police. He chose not to do so," Sun said.

The defense says the charges are overblown.

"At this point, this is an incident that was blown out of proportion by three minors who were scared that they were going to get in trouble for trespassing and destroying some property," Marsicovetere said.

Bruno was released but under several strict conditions, including that he not possess any firearms, that he have no communication with the teens who trespassed on his property and that he observe a 24-hour curfew with few exceptions.

Neither Bruno nor his attorney would comment after court on Monday.

He's due back in court at a later date.