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Judge opens door for release of Md. Coast Guard lieutenant accused of terror plot

This file image provided by the U.S. District Court in Maryland shows a photo of firearms and ammunition that was in the motion for detention pending trial in the case against Christopher Paul Hasson. Hasson, 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 in a court filing Tuesday, April 22, 2019. (U.S. District Court via AP, File)

A judge has agreed to the pretrial release of a Silver Spring, Maryland, Coast Guard lieutenant accused of plotting terrorist attacks against prominent Democrats and journalists earlier this year. Lawyers would first need to agree to acceptable conditions of release.

Christopher Hasson, 50, will remain detained for now, according to Marcia Murphy with the U.S. Attorney’s Office District of Maryland. Hasson was arrested Feb. 15 on drug and gun charges, but hasn’t been charged with any terrorism-related charges.

“U.S. Magistrate Judge Charles B. Day stated that he will release Lt. Hasson if the defense can propose suitable conditions of release,” Murphy said in a statement Thursday evening. “… If Judge Day does order the defendant’s release, the government intends to appeal such release to the U.S. District Judge presiding over the case, on the basis of the danger to the community posed by the defendant.”

In a February court filing, prosecutors said Hasson drafted an email in which he said he was “dreaming of a way to kill almost every last person on the earth.”

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.

Day said Thursday that Hasson hasn’t been charged with any terrorism-related offenses, but he still has “grave concerns” about Hasson based on prosecutors’ information.

Hasson is “going to have to have a whole lot of supervision,” Day said.

Day didn’t order Hasson to be immediately released. The magistrate gave Hasson’s defense attorney, Liz Oyer, a few days to arrange conditions of release that would be acceptable to the court. Prosecutors have vowed to appeal if Day does order his release.

The defense can offer conditions, but no further hearings are currently scheduled.

“We will oppose any condition of release,” Murphy told WTOP.

Prosecutors have said Hasson is a self-described white nationalist who espoused extremist views for years and “intends to murder innocent civilians on a scale rarely seen in this country.”

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.

He faces a maximum of 31 years in prison if convicted of all four counts in his indictment.

 

WTOP’s Mike Murillo and The Associated Press contributed to this report. 

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