Feds: Coast Guard officer targeted Supreme Court justices
ROCKVILLE, Md. (AP) — A Coast Guard lieutenant accused of stockpiling guns and compiling a hit list of prominent Democrats and network TV journalists looked at other targets: two Supreme Court justices and two executives of social media companies, according to federal prosecutors.
Those new allegations are contained in a court filing Tuesday in which prosecutors urge a magistrate judge to keep Christopher Hasson, 49, detained in custody pending trial on firearms and weapons charges.
The filing doesn’t name the two justices and two company executives but says Hasson searched online for their home addresses in March 2018, within minutes before and after searching firearm sales websites.
“The defendant conducted an internet search for ‘are supreme court justices protected’ approximately two weeks prior to searching for the home addresses of the two Supreme Court justices,” Assistant U.S. Attorney Thomas Windom wrote in a footnote.
Hasson, who is due back in court Thursday for a detention hearing, is renewing his request to be released from custody while awaiting trial. A lawyer who represented Hasson at a Feb. 21 detention hearing accused prosecutors of making inflammatory accusations against Hasson without providing evidence to back them up.
Prosecutors haven’t charged him with any terrorism-related offenses since his Feb. 15 arrest and subsequent indictment in Maryland. Hasson’s attorney, Liz Oyer, wrote in a court filing last week that prosecutors recently disclosed that they don’t expect to seek any additional charges.
In an email to The Associated Press, Oyer declined to comment Wednesday on the prosecutors’ new allegations.
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.”
Hasson’s internet search history “lays bare his views on race, which in turn inform his criminal conduct,” Windom wrote.
In November 2017, according to the prosecutor, Hasson searched for “please god let there be a race war.” And the defendant did an internet search for guns with a search term that used a racial slur for blacks in March 2018 before visiting firearm sales websites.
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. Windom said “it cannot go unnoticed” that the terrorist who perpetrated the deadly New Zealand mosque attacks in March also was a “devotee” of Breivik.
In 2017, Hasson sent himself a draft letter he had written to a neo-Nazi leader and “identified himself as a White Nationalist for over 30 years and advocated for ‘focused violence’ in order to establish a white homeland,” prosecutors said.
That letter also refers to “Missouri,” a person with whom Hasson has a “long history,” Windom wrote. In 1995, according to federal prosecutors, Hasson and “Missouri” went to a home in Hampton, Virginia, where the homeowner arrived by car and asked them why they were there. The victim identified Hasson and Missouri as “skinheads.”
“Missouri,” wearing a black jacket with Swastika patches, aimed a handgun at the victim’s face and pulled the trigger, according to a police report cited by prosecutors. When the gun didn’t fire, “Missouri” beat the victim with it.
“Chris Hasson was standing there with the suspect when this occurred,” Windom wrote.
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.
During the February 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.
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.
“The silencers serve one purpose: to murder quietly. The defendant intended to do so on a mass scale, and his detention has thwarted his unlawful desire,” Windom wrote.
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.