Judge says Coast Guard officer accused of plotting domestic terror attack can be released

A judge said Christopher Hasson could be released under strict conditions while awaiting trial, but agreed to put the order on hold as prosecutors appeal.
Image: Christopher Hasson
Christopher Hasson in U.S. District Court, Greenbelt, on weapons and drug charges.Art Lien

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By Gary Grumbach and Adiel Kaplan

A Coast Guard officer accused of stockpiling guns and compiling a hit list of prominent Democrats and network television journalists can be released on strict supervision to one of his in-laws while he awaits trial, a federal judge ruled Tuesday.

Judge Charles Day agreed to delay the release while prosecutors appeal the decision.

Christopher Hasson, 50, a Coast Guard lieutenant working in the nation's capital, was arrested Feb. 15 on drug and gun charges. Prosecutors later called Hasson a "domestic terrorist" in court filings and said he "intends to murder innocent civilians on a scale rarely seen in this country."

But Hasson has not been charged with any terrorism-related offenses and prosecutors have said they don't plan to file additional charges. Hasson's lawyer has been seeking his pretrial release for several months.

After initially denying the request, the judge agreed Tuesday to a strict release into the custody of Hasson's father-in-law or mother-in-law in Virginia, where he would have to be accompanied by someone else at all times.

Hasson will not be released yet. The judge has laid out a lengthy list of conditions for his release, which court officers must confirm have been met, and the government's appeal must be processed. If the appeal is rejected, Hasson may be released in about a week.

The judge had previously expressed his "grave concerns" about Hasson based on information prosecutors have presented. On Tuesday, Day said the allegations against Hasson made him "very nervous, but I don't think it justifies detention."

The stockpile of guns found by investigators owned by Christopher Hasson.U.S. Attorney's Office in Maryland

Hasson, a self-described white nationalist who espoused extremist views for years, stockpiled weapons and created a hit list of prominent Democrats, two Supreme Court justices, network TV journalists and social media company executives, according to prosecutors. 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 have said Hasson appeared to be planning attacks inspired by the manifesto of Anders Behring Breivik, the Norwegian right-wing extremist who killed 77 people in a 2011 bomb-and-shooting rampage.

In court, Hasson's attorney Liz Oyer said he has had a lifelong interest in firearms and likes to hunt and target practice. She said the number of guns he owned isn't unusual in North Carolina, where he lived for years before moving to Maryland.

Hasson pleaded not guilty in March to charges of illegal possession of firearm silencers, possession of firearms by a drug addict and unlawful user, and possession of a controlled substance. He faces a maximum of 31 years in prison if convicted of all four counts in his indictment.

Hasson, a former Marine, worked at the Coast Guard headquarters in Washington on a program to acquire advanced new cutters for the agency. A Coast Guard spokesman has said Hasson will remain on active duty until the case against him is resolved.