GREENBELT — In a detention hearing for Christopher Paul Hasson who was allegedly caught stockpiling weapons and drugs to target prominent Democratic leaders and journalists, Judge Charles Day ruled that Hasson be held without bail and gave the prosecution 14 days to come up with further evidence to prove that Hasson intended to act on his plans, on Feb. 21.
Hasson, a former Coast Guard lieutenant, was arrested on drug and gun charges after search warrants found he had a large supply of guns, drugs and his internet searches were found to contain searches for how to carry out a widespread attack.
The prosecution said during Thursday’s detention hearing at the U.S. District Court that the search of his home and computers revealed his intention to murder innocent civilians.
According to a court document filed by U.S. Attorney Robert Hur, a number of concerning internet searches were found including research on a number of shooting incidents, the most prominent being a manifesto written by right-wing terrorist Anders Behring Breivik who carried out two attacks in Norway in 2011 that killed 77 people.
Further proving their case, they alleged that Hasson’s activity parallelled the phases of Breivik’s attack.
It was also alleged that Hasson had been reading this manifesto for several years at work and the first phase that Breivik outlined had to do with the acquisition of weapons.
Search warrants and financial records found that Hasson had acquired an assortment of firearms and equipment, mostly between 2017 and 2018.
The search of his apartment in Silver Spring found 15 firearms, including handguns and rifles as well as about 1,000 rounds of ammunition. Financial records showed that he had spent around $14,000 in gear and equipment.
According to the prosecution, the search was “concerning” and showed that he was “dangerous to the community.”
It was found that he was targeting current and former government officials and journalists which he had listed out in three categories. His Google searches contained questions such as the best places to find congresspeople and whether certain officials have protection. All consistent with Breivik’s 1,500-page manifesto.
Additionally, Hasson has been stocking up on steroids as well as weapons to prepare himself for the attack.
During the hearing, the prosecution showed a picture of a case of pills that was found in Hasson’s possession which they allege he had gotten from an individual from Mexico, and said they had surveillance video of Hasson taking the pills at his work desk.
In a defense argued by Hasson’s public defender, Julie Stelzig, she asserted that Hasson had no prior criminal history and the document filed against him was intended to bring media attention to the case and put pressure on the court system as it “throws stuff against the wall hoping it will stick.”
Stelzig argued that Hasson had “dedicated his life to serving the community” has been in the Coast Guard for 28 years and have risen in the ranks. Throughout his life, he had volunteered in the community and was a loving husband and father.
The government only cited two documents on his work computer, one being a deleted draft email and the other being a letter from September 2017 to a now-deceased white separatist, to assert that Hasson had been an extremist for years, Stelzig said. There were also two internet searches on a single date in June 2019 regarding how to carry out the attack.
She further argued that it was unlikely that Hasson was stockpiling weapons.
The size of his collection is “in the eye of the beholder,” and while it may seem like a lot, many people are gun enthusiasts and the average gun owner has around eight guns which are not illegal.
Regarding his drugs, Stelzig said that the drug Hasson had in his possession was a narcotic which has sleep-inducing properties and is at odds with his alleged plan to carry out an attack.
It was unlikely that Hasson was compiling a hit list because while the government alleged that Hasson had a number of targeted individuals on a spreadsheet, Stelzig said, there were no plans, schedules, addresses or anything that would indicate that Hasson was planning to carry out the attack.
“It is not a crime to think negative things,” Stelzig said, nor is it a crime to “write out doomsday scenarios.”
The government’s reasons for detaining Hasson had to do with his guns and drugs, his internet searches and the concern posed for the safety of the community, but, Stelzig said, Hasson has been a committed public servant his entire life and the case “must be based on fact, not government innuendo.”
After both sides gave their arguments, Day finally weighed in on the case saying that he had made his decision based on several factors.
One was the nature of the circumstances of the offense which was in favor of the defense, the weight of the evidence which was in favor of the government as it relates to the charges as well as factors such as Hasson’s lack of criminal history and the lack of evidence on his mental history.
However, he said that the government was right for questioning the “nature and seriousness of the danger to the community.” Although Hasson has served the country for 28 years, the question of his dangerousness is valid.
In the end, Day called the motion itself a “double-edged sword” and said that his ruling comes with a caveat as he ordered that Hasson be held without bail, but the government be given 14 days to come up with further evidence to charge Hassan with the intent to carry out his attack.