In February, authorities arrested Coast Guard Lt. Christopher Hasson, with federal prosecutors describing him as a “domestic terrorist” and a self-identified white nationalist. He was only charged with simple possession of a controlled substance and possession of a firearm and ammunition by an unlawful user or addict of controlled substances, but prosecutors said in a court filing that this was “the proverbial tip of the iceberg,” implying that more charges were coming.
Now it’s April, Hasson has been kept in custody, and his defense attorney is still waiting for the rest of that iceberg. In a letter to Judge Charles B. Day, attorney Liz Oyer said Hasson should be released because prosecutors still haven’t filed any additional charges.
Judge Day said at a February 21 detention hearing that while prosecutors presented a case for keeping Hasson behind bars, he would give them 14 days to bring new charges based on their extensive allegations. In the absence of additional charges, the defense would be permitted to seek reconsideration for Hasson’s potential release.
Prosecutors say that Hasson’s writings and internet searches led them to believe that he was hatching a massive terror plot, targeting “prominent Democratic Congressional leaders, activists, political organizations, and MSNBC and CNN media personalities.” Those figures allegedly included Senators Chuck Schumer, Elizabeth Warren, Cory Booker, and Kamala Harris; Reps. Nancy Pelosi, Maxine Waters, Sheila Jackson Lee, Ilhan Omar, and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez; CNN’s Chris Cuomo and Don Lemon; and MSNBC’s Chris Hayes and Ari Melber.
Despite this, Oyer says, “No other crimes have been charged,” other than the initial possession offenses.
“Many more than 14 days have now passed, and the government has not charged Mr. Hasson with any terrorism-related offense,” Oyer wrote in her letter.
While there is no federal statute of a crime of “domestic terrorism” (though it does have a legal definition), prosecutors could bring charges if they had evidence that Hasson committed or attempted to commit other offenses. Charleston church shooter Dylann Roof, for example, wasn’t charged with domestic terrorism, but that didn’t keep prosecutors from getting a murder conviction.
Given the lack of additional charges against Hasson, Oyer said, “the defense would like to accept the Court’s invitation to return for a further hearing on the issue of pretrial detention.”
[Image via U.S. District Court for the District of Maryland]