- The Washington Times
Thursday, April 25, 2019

The U.S. Coast Guard officer accused of plotting a massive terrorist attack on left-leaning politicians and journalists will be released on bail, a federal judge in Maryland ruled Thursday.

“I do not find detention is appropriate. He’s entitled to be released,” said U.S. District Judge Charles B. Day in a Greenbelt courtroom.

Federal prosecutors have argued that Lt. Christopher P. Hasson was amassing weapons in preparation for a major terror attack and planned to murder civilians “on a scale rarely seen in this country.”

But prosecutors have not charged him with any terrorism-related offenses since Feb. 15 arrest and subsequent indictment, and U.S. Attorney Thomas Windom told the court Thursday those charges aren’t coming either.

Instead, the government has lodged gun and drug charges against Lt. Hasson, accusing him of possessing an illegal silencer and a banned substance. He has pleaded not guilty and faces up to 31 years in prison if convicted.

Lt. Hasson’s public defender Liz Oyer has accused the government of leveling “inflammatory” accusations against her client without producing evidence of a terrorist plot.

“The government has failed to deliver,” Ms. Oyer said Thursday. “They have not come forward with evidence Lt. Hasson is a domestic terrorist because he is not.”

Mr. Windom strongly argued against releasing Lt. Hasson, pointing to well-known terrorism cases and saying their perpetrators merely had ideas until they acted upon those impulses.

Judge Day said the absence of terrorism charges made it difficult to hold Lt. Hasson ahead of a likely trial. He noted the government didn’t even pursue a more serious charge such as stalking one of his intended targets.

“The defendant is not charged with any terrorist activity, but clearly there is no intent to charge Mr. Hasson with anything other than what is in the indictment,” he said.

Still, the judge said he has “grave concerns” about Lt. Hasson based on the details prosecutors have presented and said Mr. Hasson must have “a whole lot of supervision.”

“I got to find someone who has eyes and ears on him like nobody’s business,” he said.

Ms. Oyer said Lt. Hasson’s wife and children have relocated to the Virginia Beach, Virginia, area since his arrest. She also said the defendant’s parents and brother live in Arizona, offering both locations as possibilities to hold Lt. Hasson while he awaits trial.

Judge Day rejected the idea of shipping Lt. Hasson off to Arizona, saying he was more receptive to the Virginia option. He left it up to prosecutors and Ms. Oyer to suss out the conditions of Lt. Hasson’s release.

It is not clear when Lt. Hasson would be released. A hearing on the terms of his release has not yet been scheduled.

Lt. Hasson’s wife was in the courtroom for the hearing, her jaw dropping after Judge Day ordered her husband’s release.

She refused to answer reporters’ questions as she exited the courtroom.

In court filings unsealed in February, prosecutors cited letters Lt. Hasson wrote to himself ranting against liberal ideology and claim he compiled a hit list that included House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and journalists for the liberal-leaning CNN and MSNBC networks.

Earlier this week, prosecutors filed court papers indicating two unnamed Supreme Court justices were also among Mr. Hasson’s intended targets. He conducted internet searches to find out where they lived, they type of security they have and which restaurants they ate at.

Mr. Hasson, a former Marine, worked at the Coast Guard headquarters in Washington. He remains on active duty until the case against him is resolved.

• Jeff Mordock can be reached at jmordock@washingtontimes.com.

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