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Judge: Ex-coast guard lieutenant suspected in domestic terror plot to remain in custody

Prosecutors have said charges filed against defendant Chris Hasson are just "the proverbial tip of the iceberg."

The exterior earlier this year of the US District Court building in Greenbelt, Maryland, where a hearing was held Monday for former coast guard lieutenant Chris Hasson

CREDIT: Mark Wilson/Getty Images
The exterior earlier this year of the US District Court building in Greenbelt, Maryland, where a hearing was held Monday for former coast guard lieutenant Chris Hasson CREDIT: Mark Wilson/Getty Images

A former coast guard lieutenant and accused white supremacist suspected of plotting attacks on a “hit list” of prominent politicians and journalists is to remain in custody pending trial, a judge ruled at a court hearing in Maryland on Monday.

The defendant, Chris Hasson, was arrested by federal agents in February on guns and weapons charges. In an earlier motion, prosecutors described those charges as the “proverbial tip of the iceberg.”

“The defendant is a domestic terrorist,” the document read. “[He is] bent on committing acts dangerous to human life that are intended to affect governmental conduct.”

Authorities, however, have yet to charge Hasson with charges related to domestic terrorism, which has led defense attorneys to argue that Hasson is not nearly as dangerous as the government claims.

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Federal Judge Charles Day ruled last week that Hasson could be released, provided he was supervised by relatives in Virginia and wore an ankle monitor. Prosecutors appealed the ruling however, and it was overturned Monday by Federal Judge George Hazel.

“I cannot leave it to a handful of civilians to make sure [Hasson] stands for trial,” Hazel said. “I’ll put that in the hands of the U.S. Marshal’s Service.”

“Mr. Hasson will get his day in court,”  the judge continued. “[But with the evidence] I am not convinced that [pre-trial release] will ensure the safety of the community.”

The defense has sought to portray Hasson, represented by a public defender and who remained silent during the hearing, as a family man and veteran with no history of violence, despite being in possession of a sizable arsenal.

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Judge Hazel circled back, however, to Hasson’s documented internet history, including repeated searches for the manifesto of Norwegian domestic terrorist Anders Behring Breivik. Hazel noted that Hasson classified his alleged hit list in a similar way that Breivik did before launching twin attacks in 2011 which killed 77 people.

The judge also flagged language used by Hasson, including “I am dreaming of a way to kill almost every last person on earth.”

“The fact that additional charges have not been filed does not prevent me from considering [mitigating factors],” Judge Hazel said.

“Evidence has been provided by the government that the defendant routinely reviewing portions of a manifesto by Anders Breivik, a known domestic terrorist.” Hazel noted that not all of the firearms purchased by Hasson had been recovered.

It was not immediately known if Hasson would appeal the decision to the 4th Circuit Court of Appeals.