Judge blocks release of Coast Guard officer accused of drafting hit list
A federal judge in Maryland on Monday blocked the release of a Coast Guard lieutenant accused of stockpiling combat gear and compiling a hit list of prominent Democrats and TV journalists. U.S. District Judge George Hazel agreed to revoke a magistrate’s order to free 50-year-old Christopher Hasson from custody while he awaits trial on firearms and drug charges.
“Reasonable judges can disagree and this is such a situation,” Hazel said, citing the difficulty of the case. Prosecutors had asked Hazel to review U.S. Magistrate Judge Charles Day’s order last week allowing Hasson to be released from custody and supervised by relatives in Virginia.
Day didn’t order Hasson’s immediate release. Instead, he gave prosecutors time to appeal.
Prosecutors have called Hasson a domestic terrorist intent on carrying out a killing spree, but they haven’t filed any terrorism-related charges against him since his Feb. 15 arrest.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Thomas Windom said the government has no doubt that Hasson’s arrest “prevented a mass casualty event.”
“His continued detention is imperative,” the prosecutor wrote in a court filing Friday.
Day’s order called for releasing Hasson to the custody of in-laws at a home in Virginia, with 24-hour monitoring by global positioning system equipment. His wife moved out of their Silver Spring, Maryland, apartment after his arrest and has been staying with her mother in Virginia.
Hasson has pleaded not guilty to charges of unlawful possession of firearm silencers, possession of a firearm by an unlawful user or addict of a controlled substance, and illegal possession of tramadol, an opioid painkiller.
Hasson’s attorney, Liz Oyer, has said prosecutors haven’t filed terrorism-related charges against Hasson because they haven’t found any evidence to back up those allegations. Oyer, an assistant federal public defender, accused prosecutors of seeking to punish Hasson for “private thoughts” that he never shared.
Oyer conceded that Hasson’s online searches were “odd,” but said that in today’s political climate, his creation of a list of “political enemies” was “common.”
Prosecutors have said Hasson created 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 MSNBC’s Chris Hayes and Joe Scarborough and CNN’s Chris Cuomo and Van Jones.
Hasson also targeted two Supreme Court justices and two social media company executives and searched online for their home addresses in March 2018, within minutes of searching firearm sales websites, according to prosecutors.
Investigators found 15 guns, including seven rifles, and more than 1,000 rounds of ammunition at Hasson’s basement apartment. He researched how to make homemade bombs and mortars, studied sniper training and used his government computer to search for information about Nazis and Adolf Hitler, prosecutors said.
Hasson, a former Marine, worked at Coast Guard headquarters in Washington on a program to acquire advanced new cutters for the agency.
No court date has been set and Hasson remains in custody.
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