GREENBELT, Md. >> A Coast Guard lieutenant accused of stockpiling firearms and drafting a hit list of prominent Democrats and journalists can be released from custody and supervised by relatives in Virginia while awaiting trial, a federal magistrate judge said today.
U.S. Magistrate Judge Charles Day stopped short of ordering 50-year-old Christopher Hasson’s immediate release after a hearing in Greenbelt, Maryland. The magistrate is giving prosecutors time to appeal his decision to a district court judge.
Day said Hasson must be subject to 24-hour home detention at one of two Virginia homes: either his mother-in-law’s rental home or a house owned by his father-in-law. The magistrate also agreed to using global positioning equipment to monitor Hasson. Court officials in Virginia must inspect the two homes and set up the monitoring equipment before Hasson can be released.
Prosecutors have portrayed Hasson as a domestic terrorist and a racist extremist intent on carrying out massive killings. Hasson’s attorney says prosecutors haven’t filed terrorism-related charges since his Feb. 15 arrest because they haven’t found any evidence to back up those allegations.
Day said during a hearing last month that Hasson is entitled to be freed pending trial on firearms and drug charges.
Defense attorney Liz Oyer proposed several pretrial release options for Day to consider during Hasson’s detention hearing, the third since his arrest.
Federal prosecutors oppose Hasson’s release under any conditions. Their appeal likely keeps 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.
Hasson is a self-described white nationalist who espoused extremist views for years and “intends to murder innocent civilians on a scale rarely seen in this country,” Windom wrote in a previous court filing.
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 also took into account the defense’s argument that he hasn’t been charged with any terrorism-related offenses since his arrest.
Oyer, an assistant federal public defender, said Hasson’s parents and brother in Arizona also are willing to serve as his “custodians.” Hasson’s wife has moved out of a Maryland apartment and is living in Virginia with her mother.
The magistrate ruled out allowing Hasson’s wife or Arizona relatives to supervise him. However, Day is requiring Hasson’s parents and his father-in-law to put up their property for a bond.
The magistrate also said Hasson can’t have any access to firearms or internet-capable devices if he is released.
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 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.