A federal judge on Monday ordered a Coast Guard officer accused of plotting a massive terrorist attack to be held in prison until his trial, overturning a decision by a magistrate judge to free him under strict conditions.
U.S. District Judge George Hazel in Greenbelt, Maryland, said releasing Lt. Christopher Hasson, 50, could pose a danger to the community.
He rejected a plan approved earlier this month by U.S. Magistrate Judge Charles B. Day that would have released Lt. Hasson into the custody of his in-laws while awaiting trial.
“I find that no conditions or combination of conditions will reasonably ensure the safety of the community,” Judge Hazel said.
Lt. Hasson can appeal the most recent decision. His attorney, Liz Oyer, declined to comment after the hearing.
Federal prosecutors have alleged that Lt. Hasson was amassing weapons in preparation for a major terror attack and planned to murder civilians “on a scale rarely seen in this country.”
They also accuse the 30-year military veteran of compiling a “hit list” of left-leaning politicians and journalists, as well was conducting internet searches related to potential attacks on senators and Supreme Court justices.
Prosecutors have not charged him with any terrorism-related offenses since his Feb. 15 arrest and subsequent indictment. Last month, U.S. Attorney Thomas Windom said no terrorism charges would be filed.
Instead, the government has lodged gun and drug charges against Lt. Hasson, accusing him of possessing an illegal silencer and a banned opioid. He has pleaded not guilty and faces up to 31 years in prison if convicted-
Last week, Judge Day ruled that Lt. Hasson should be released on home detention to the Virginia residences of his wife’s parents and imposed strict bail conditions, including 24-hour GPS monitoring. The magistrate judge did not immediately implement the plan in order to allow federal prosecutors to appeal the decision in U.S. District Court.
On Monday, Judge Hazel said the precautions weren’t good enough.
“I cannot leave it to a handful of civilian family members to ensure that he doesn’t carry out that plan,” he said. “I will leave that to a handful of U.S. marshals.”
Mr. Windom told Judge Hazel that Lt. Hasson’s arrest prevented a mass casualty event.
“Nothing is more serious than murder and that, plain and simple, is what the defendant intended to do,” the prosecutor said.
He also said that Lt. Hasson lied on Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives forms by claiming to live in Virginia so he could obtain a gun more easily. The prosecutor also presented evidence that Lt. Hasson modified several guns to be deadlier.
Ms. Oyer said the government’s claims simply aren’t supported by the facts. She noted that the government has presented no evidence indicating that Lt. Hasson had a specific target or attack plan in place.
“They are asking the court to take their word,” the defense attorney said of the government’s accusations.
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