COLLEGE PARK, Md. — A Coast Guard lieutenant accused of stockpiling guns and compiling a hit list of prominent Democrats and network TV journalists is seeking his release from federal custody since prosecutors haven’t charged him with any terrorism-related offenses.
Christopher Hasson, 49, has remained in custody since his Feb. 15 arrest and subsequent indictment in Maryland on firearms and drug charges. Hasson's attorney, Liz Oyer, wrote in a court filing Monday that prosecutors recently disclosed that they don't expect to seek any additional charges.
In a February court filing, prosecutors called Hasson a “domestic terrorist” and said he “intends to murder innocent civilians on a scale rarely seen in this country.” They also said he is a self-described white nationalist who espoused extremist views for years and drafted an email in which he said he was “dreaming of a way to kill almost every last person on the earth.”
During a Feb. 21 detention hearing, U.S. Magistrate Judge Charles Day agreed to keep Hasson held in custody but said he was willing to revisit his decision if prosecutors didn't bring more serious charges within two weeks. Oyer, an assistant federal public defender, is asking Judge Day to schedule another detention hearing for Hasson "at the earliest agreeable date for all parties."
Oyer said her client's alleged domestic terrorism activities were "the heart of the government's case for detention." A prosecutor wrote in the February court filing that the drug and firearms charges were the "proverbial tip of the iceberg."
"No other crimes have been charged," Oyer wrote. "Moreover, during a recent status call, government counsel advised the Court and defense counsel that it does not expect to file a superseding indictment in this matter."
Prosecutors haven't responded in writing to Oyer's request. Marcia Murphy, a spokeswoman for U.S. Attorney Robert Hur's office, declined to comment.
Hasson pleaded not guilty last month 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.
Investigators found 15 guns, including seven rifles, and over 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.
Prosecutors claim Hasson drew up what appeared to be a computer-spreadsheet hit list that included House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer and presidential hopefuls Sens. Kirsten Gillibrand, Elizabeth Warren, Cory Booker and Kamala Harris. Several network TV journalists — MSNBC's Chris Hayes and Joe Scarborough and CNN's Chris Cuomo and Van Jones — also were mentioned.
A different public defender has accused prosecutors of making inflammatory accusations against Hasson without providing evidence to back them up.
Hasson, a former Marine, worked at 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.