Domestic terror threat suspect could be released to wife’s family in Virginia Beach

Posted at 5:56 AM, May 08, 2019
and last updated 2019-05-08 12:55:21-04

A federal judge said Tuesday that Christopher Hasson, the Coast Guard lieutenant accused of plotting a domestic terror attack, should be released to the home of his mother-in-law or father-in-law in Virginia -- one, and possibly both, live in Virginia Beach.

Prosecutors have said that Hasson is a white supremacist who amassed an arsenal of weapons and kept a hit list of high-profile Democrats and journalists. Judge Charles Day last month said that he should be released because the weapons and drug charges he faces don't warrant detention. He has pleaded not guilty to the charges against him.

At a hearing last month, Hasson's public defender, Liz Oyer, said at least one of Hasson's wife's parents lives in Virginia Beach, Virginia.

Hasson's attorney also said that the father-in-law had found someone to take the guns in his Virginia home "immediately."

Judge Charles Day selected from options for Hasson's supervised release that were presented by Hasson's public defender during the hearing in Maryland federal court.

Hasson will likely be allowed to stay at the home of one of his wife's parents, who are divorced, without access to internet-connected devices and with home confinement and monitoring.

Prosecutors have said no conditions of release are enough to keep the community safe and filed an appeal of Hasson's release shortly after Day made his decision Tuesday afternoon. Day has said that he would hold Hasson's release pending the resolution of that appeal.

While Day said he believes the defendant should be released, he made it clear that he would take swift action if Hasson were to violate any of his conditions.

"Should he put his left foot out the door contrary to these orders, that's going to turn my nervousness into action," Day said.

The parents of Hasson's wife, who are divorced and live in separate homes, are located at least 190 miles away from the federal courthouse in Greenbelt, Maryland, where the case is being heard, according to court filings.

Hasson's wife and adult daughter, as well as his parents and his wife's parents, were in court Tuesday for the hearing. They declined to comment on the judge's decisions as they left the courtroom.

Hasson and his family were expected to meet after the end of the hearing to finalize the release details. Day said that three homes -- belonging to Hasson's parents, his wife and his wife's father -- would all have to be put up for collateral as a property bond.

Day agreed to allow multiple approved family members to serve as custodians for Hasson, and said he would permit them to rotate in and out. The custodians would have to be on the grounds of the home with Hasson at all times. Assistant US Attorney Thomas Windom had argued against Day's decision, saying that a "rotating band of custodians would present substantial logistical challenges."

Day also said that he would require Hasson to undergo drug and mental health testing. He added that Hasson would be permitted to leave his home confinement for pre-approved medical treatment and visits with his attorney.

Throughout the hearing, Day emphasized the responsibilities Hasson's family were accepting if they were to take Hasson into their care, adding that he does not want their decision to become a "sentence upon them."

"Third-party custodians are expected to be the eyes and ears of the court," Day said. "If at any time any of them no longer want to be a custodian, all I need is a phone call and we can take it from there."

Day denied a request by Windom to bar Hasson and his third-party custodians from having any visitors, saying instead that the prosecution may submit a "no-fly list" of "witnesses (Hasson) cannot have contact with."

Prosecutors argued on Monday against Hasson's release, quoting Day, who said last month that someone would have to have "eyes and ears" on Hasson "like nobody's business."

Prosecutors added that "the only way to ensure that goal is met is to keep the defendant detained in the custody of the United States Marshals Service."

"The Government continues to believe that (Hasson) poses a serious danger and must be detained pending trial," prosecutors write.

Hasson's hit list included Democratic politicians -- Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York, Sens. Chuck Schumer of New York, Cory Booker of New Jersey, Richard Blumenthal of Connecticut and Kamala Harris of California, as well as former Rep. Beto O'Rourke of Texas -- as well as CNN journalists Don Lemon, Chris Cuomo and Van Jones and MSNBC's Chris Hayes, Ari Melber and Joe Scarborough.

He also allegedly searched the internet for the home addresses of two Supreme Court justices as well as the best gun to kill African-Americans, according to court documents.

Hasson stockpiled steroids and human growth hormone "to increase his ability to conduct attacks," the government wrote in court documents earlier this year. When law enforcement agents searched his house they found 15 guns and more than 1,000 rounds of ammunition, according to the documents.

Though Hasson was indicted on weapons and drug charges, he did not face any charges related to terrorism or attempted murder -- a point his public defender made when she argued that the government's continued detention of him was unlawful.