COLLEGE PARK, Md. — A Coast Guard lieutenant whom prosecutors describe as a domestic terrorist is due back in court next week for a hearing on the conditions of his possible release from federal custody.
During a detention hearing Thursday in Maryland, U.S. Magistrate Judge Charles Day said 50-year-old Christopher Hasson is entitled to be freed pending trial on firearms and drug charges. But the magistrate didn’t immediately order Hasson’s release.
On May 7, Day is scheduled to preside over another detention hearing to weigh several proposed release options presented by Hasson's attorney.
Justice Department prosecutors plan to oppose any conditions for Hasson's release and plan to appeal if Day does order his release. Prosecutors have said he created a hit list of prominent Democrats and network TV journalists. They also say Hasson targeted two Supreme Court justices and two social media company executives, searched online for their home addresses in March 2018, within minutes before and after searching firearm sales websites.
Day said he still has "grave concerns" about Hasson based on information prosecutors have presented. But the judge noted that Hasson hasn't been charged with any terrorism related offenses since his Feb. 15 arrest.
Day gave Hasson's defense attorney, Liz Oyer, a few days to arrange conditions of release that would be acceptable to the court. In a letter to Day on Monday, Oyer said Hasson's mother-in-law and father-in-law in Virginia are willing to have him stay with them under their supervision. So would 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.
Oyer said conditions of Hasson's release should include home detention with electronic location monitoring, with no access to firearms, a computer or other internet-capable devices.
In a February court filing, prosecutors said 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." The filing also said Hasson drafted an email in which he said he was "dreaming of a way to kill almost every last person on the earth." And prosecutors 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.
Oyer said her client hadn't made any direct or specific threats to harm anyone. She said prosecutors are seeking to punish Hasson for "private thoughts" that he never shared.
"They have not come forward with evidence that Mr. Hasson is a domestic terrorist because he is not," she told Day last week.
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. 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 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. A Coast Guard spokesman has said Hasson will remain on active duty until the case against him is resolved.