Want the best from VICE News in your inbox? Sign up here.
The U.S. Coast Guard lieutenant who stockpiled weapons and allegedly aspired to start a “race war” will remain in jail, pending the outcome of his trial, a federal judge ruled Monday.
The decision reverses a lower court’s agreement to release Christopher P. Hasson, 50, to relatives if his lawyers could come up with acceptable conditions.
“I find that no conditions or combination of conditions will reasonably ensure the safety of the community,” Maryland District Judge George Hazel wrote in his opinion.
Hasson, a self-avowed white nationalist who remains on active duty at the Coast Guard, had amassed weapons, ammo, and tactical gear and allegedly compiled a hit list of “leftists” and “traitors” like high-profile Democrats and journalists. Because of limited domestic terrorism laws, however, prosecutors could only charge him with being an addict in possession of a gun, owning unregistered gun silencers, and ordering synthetic opioids from Mexico.
“The government has no doubt that the defendant’s arrest on February 15, 2019, prevented a mass casualty event,” prosecutors wrote in response to the lower court’s decision to release Hasson. “His continued detention is imperative.”
But Hasson’s attorneys argued that without more serious charges, the court should agree to release Hasson on bond until the start of his trial. At the end of April, Magistrate Judge Charles B. Day agreed, although he said he still had “grave concerns” about the allegations against Hasson.
To challenge Day’s decision, prosecutors filed additional documents, including a timeline of Hasson’s online searches over a five-day period in 2018, which they said indicated his plans. For example, Hasson searched for information about Hitler, Nazis, and questions like “How many jews in the U.S.” from his Coast Guard computer — and then visited firearm sales websites from his personal device, according to prosecutors.
He also searched terms like “how far can 22lr rifle kill” and “how can white people rise against the jews.” Lastly, prosecutors said Hasson visited white supremacist blogs and bought books on “white advocacy” and “white identity.”
Hasson also lied on federal ATF forms at a gun show in Virginia “in order to acquire the firearms most expeditiously,” according to prosecutors. He stated that he was a resident in-state rather than giving his real address in Maryland.
Prosecutors said Hasson had asked to be released to a “rotating cast of third-party custodians,” including his wife, in-laws, parents, and brother, who would switch off supervising duties until his trial. But prosecutors argued that each proposed custodian “suffers from individual deficiencies,” which they laid out in documents (which were later redacted).
His parents and brother live in Arizona, which was deemed a “nonstarter” by Judge Day during an April hearing. His wife and in-laws live in Virginia, 190 miles — or a three-hour drive — from the federal court in Greenbelt, Maryland. Prosecutors said that the distance created “logistical difficulties” for travel and monitoring.
“Will the custodian personally drive the defendant the three hours from Maryland to Virginia? Will stops be permitted?” prosecutors asked. “What happens if, during the drive, the defendant — a thirty-year service member, at least 5”11 and 180 pounds — attempts to escape or commandeer the car.”
Prosecutors also argued that “even elaborate conditions of home conditions” could not ensure public safety. “Nothing — nothing — could stop the defendant from cutting his GPS monitor, leaving behind his custodians, and executing his intentions,” they said.
A date has not yet been set for the trial.
Cover image: This undated file photo provided by the Maryland U.S. District Attorney’s Office shows firearms and ammunition confiscated from Coast Guard officer Christopher Paul Hasson, accused of stockpiling guns and compiling a hit list of prominent Democrats and network TV journalists. (Maryland U.S. District Attorney’s Office via AP, File)