US Coast Guard lieutenant expected to plead guilty in gun case

US Coast Guard lieutenant expected to plead guilty in gun case

Prosecutors say Christopher Hasson, accused of stashing weapons, drafting hit list of Democrats and journalists, is domestic terrorist, but haven’t filed terrorism-related charges

A photo of firearms and ammunition that was in the motion for detention pending trial in the case against US Coast Guard officer Christopher Paul Hasson. (Maryland US District Attorney's Office via AP, File)
A photo of firearms and ammunition that was in the motion for detention pending trial in the case against US Coast Guard officer Christopher Paul Hasson. (Maryland US District Attorney's Office via AP, File)

COLLEGE PARK, Maryland (AP) — A Coast Guard lieutenant accused of stockpiling weapons and drafting a hit list of prominent Democrats and TV journalists is expected to plead guilty Thursday in a case charging him with gun and drug offenses.

A docket entry says Christopher Hasson, 50, is scheduled to appear in federal court for a re-arraignment, which typically signals a plea agreement has been reached.

A person with direct knowledge of Hasson’s plans said he’s expected to plead guilty during his court appearance Thursday in Greenbelt, Maryland. The person spoke on condition of anonymity because a plea deal hasn’t been announced.

Federal prosecutors called Hasson a self-described white nationalist and domestic terrorist intent on carrying out a mass killing, but they haven’t filed any terrorism-related charges against him since his February arrest.

Two of the four counts in Hasson’s indictment charge him with illegally possessing unregistered and unserialized silencers. He also was charged with possession of a firearm by an unlawful user or addict of a controlled substance, and illegal possession of tramadol, an opioid painkiller.

Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, Democrat-New York, left, talks with Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, Democrat-California, before a House vote at the Capitol in Washington, June 26, 2019. (J. Scott Applewhite/AP)

Prosecutors claimed Hasson drew up what appeared to be a computer spreadsheet hit list that included House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer and Democratic presidential hopefuls Elizabeth Warren, Cory Booker and Kamala Harris. Several network TV journalists — MSNBC’s Chris Hayes and Joe Scarborough and CNN’s Chris Cuomo and Van Jones — also were mentioned.

Hasson also targeted two Supreme Court justices and two social media company executives and searched online for their home addresses in March 2018, within minutes of searching firearm sales websites, according to prosecutors.

Investigators found 15 guns, including seven rifles, and more than 1,000 rounds of ammunition at Hasson’s basement apartment in Silver Spring, Maryland. He researched how to make homemade bombs and mortars, studied sniper training and used his government computer to search for information about Nazis and Adolf Hitler, prosecutors said.

Last month, a federal judge refused to dismiss the gun charges against Hasson. US District Judge George Hazel rejected defense attorneys’ argument that charging Hasson with unlawful possession of firearm silencers violates his Second Amendment right to bear arms.

Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Elizabeth Warren, Democrat-Massachusetts, gestures towards New Jersey Senator Cory Booker, during a Democratic primary debate hosted by NBC News at the Adrienne Arsht Center for the Performing Arts, in Miami, June 26, 2019. (Wilfredo Lee/AP)

During a hearing earlier this year, Assistant US Attorney Thomas Windom said the government had no doubt that Hasson’s arrest prevented bloodshed. Prosecutors have said 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.

Hasson has espoused extremist views for years and “intends to murder innocent civilians on a scale rarely seen in this country,” Windom wrote. Hasson also drafted an email in which he said he was “dreaming of a way to kill almost every last person on earth,” Windom said.

Assistant federal public defender Liz Oyer has said prosecutors haven’t filed terrorism-related charges against Hasson because they haven’t found any evidence to back up those allegations. She accused prosecutors of seeking to punish Hasson for “private thoughts” that he never shared.

Hasson, a former Marine, worked at Coast Guard headquarters in Washington on a program to acquire advanced new cutters for the agency. He remains on active duty pending the outcome of the criminal case.

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