The Coast Guard lieutenant described by prosecutors as a “domestic terrorist,” who was “bent on committing acts dangerous to human life,” could be out on bail in time for his trial.
Christopher Hasson was arrested by federal agents in February on gun and drug charges. According to prosecutors at the time, however, those charges were the “proverbial tip of the iceberg.” Hasson had compiled a hit list of prominent Democrats, researched the security arrangements of Supreme Court justices, and said that he wanted to violently establish a white ethnostate. He was also obsessed with Norwegian far-right extremist Anders Behring Breivik, who killed 77 people in two attacks in 2011.
After he was arrested, it was revealed that Hasson had amassed a small arsenal, including AR-15 rifles, shotguns, silencers, bulletproof vests, and thousands of rounds of ammunition. Federal agents also discovered more than 30 bottles of Human Growth Hormone, which Hasson had acquired.
Despite this, Hasson has not actually been charged with anything related to domestic terrorism in the nearly two months since his arrest. As a result, federal judge Charles Day ruled on Thursday afternoon that Hasson wasn’t as dangerous as government prosecutors said he was, and ordered a release hearing.
But the U.S. attorney’s office in Maryland stressed that this does not mean Hasson is free to go until his trial. According to a spokeswoman, prosecutors will oppose any scenario that involves Hasson’s release. Releases have to meet certain conditions, like a third party custodian, house arrest, or property bond. Bearing in mind the severity of the accusations against Hasson, it is unclear what type of conditions would be deemed “acceptable” for his release.
“As of now, Mr. Hasson remains detained pending further possible proceedings. The government will oppose any conditions of release,” spokeswoman Marcia Murphy told ThinkProgress. “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.”
The fact that Hasson could be released at all, however, points to law enforcement’s ongoing struggle to deal with domestic terrorists. As ThinkProgress has previously outlined, under the First Amendment, domestic extremists can get away with actions like searching online for the manifestos of other far-right terrorists, like Breivik, without it constituting “evidence” of support for a terrorist group. Hasson wasn’t involved with any specific extremist group — although he did attempt to correspond with neo-Nazi Harold Covington — which makes it harder for prosecutors, using the current domestic terror laws, to try Hasson as a terrorist.
This piece has been updated with a statement from the U.S. attorney’s office.