A federal magistrate judge may decide Tuesday whether to order the release of a Coast Guard lieutenant accused of stockpiling weapons and drafting a hit list of prominent Democrats and network TV journalists.
Prosecutors have portrayed 50-year-old Christopher Hasson as a domestic terrorist and a racist extremist intent on carrying out a killing spree. Hasson’s attorney says prosecutors haven’t filed terrorism-related charges because they haven’t found any evidence to back up those allegations.
Now the court must decide if Hasson can be freed. Defense attorney Liz Oyer has proposed several pretrial release options for U.S. Magistrate Judge Charles Day to consider during Hasson’s latest detention hearing in Greenbelt, Maryland.
Day said during a hearing last month that Hasson is entitled to be freed pending trial on firearms and drug charges. But the magistrate didn’t immediately order Hasson’s release.
Federal prosecutors oppose Hasson’s release under any conditions and plan to appeal if Day does order him freed. An appeal could keep Hasson detained pending a district court judge’s review of the matter.
“The Government continues to believe that the defendant poses a serious danger and must be detained pending trial,” Assistant U.S. Attorney Thomas Windom wrote in a court filing Sunday.
Prosecutors said Hasson compiled what appeared to be a computer-spreadsheet hit list that included Democratic presidential hopefuls Sens. Kirsten Gillibrand, Elizabeth Warren, Cory Booker and Kamala Harris. Also mentioned were such figures as MSNBC’s Chris Hayes and Joe Scarborough and CNN’s Chris Cuomo and Van Jones. Prosecutors also say Hasson targeted two Supreme Court justices and two social media company executives and searched online for their home addresses in March 2018, within minutes before and after searching firearm sales websites.
During last month’s hearing, Day said he still has “grave concerns” about Hasson based on information prosecutors have presented. But the magistrate noted Hasson hasn’t been charged with any terrorism-related offenses since his Feb. 15 arrest.
Hasson’s attorney, assistant federal public defender Liz Oyer, has said Hasson’s mother-in-law and father-in-law in Virginia are willing to have him stay with them under their supervision. So are Hasson’s parents and brother in Arizona, according to Oyer. Hasson’s wife has moved out of a Maryland apartment and is living in Virginia with her mother.
Windom said none of those custodian options are viable or meet what Day said was the goal of ensuring that someone has “eyes and ears” on Hasson “like nobody’s business.”
“The only way to ensure that goal is met is to keep the defendant detained in the custody of the United States Marshals Service,” the prosecutor wrote.
Oyer said conditions of Hasson’s release should include home detention with electronic location monitoring, as well as no access to firearms, a computer or other internet-capable devices.
Oyer has said her client hadn’t made any direct or specific threats to harm anyone. Prosecutors are seeking to punish Hasson for “private thoughts” that he never shared, she said.
“They have not come forward with evidence that Mr. Hasson is a domestic terrorist because he is not,” she told Day last month.
Hasson has pleaded not guilty to charges of illegal possession of firearm silencers, possession of firearms by a drug addict and unlawful user, and possession of a controlled substance. Investigators found 15 guns, including seven rifles, and more than 1,000 rounds of ammunition at Hasson’s basement apartment in Silver Spring, Maryland, prosecutors said. Hasson’s Feb. 27 indictment also accuses him of illegal possession of tramadol, an opioid painkiller.
Hasson, a former Marine, worked at Coast Guard headquarters in Washington on a program to acquire advanced new cutters for the agency.