Attorneys for Christopher Hasson, a Coast Guard lieutenant accused of planning a terror attack and the murder of liberal politicians and television pundits, said Thursday that newly discovered evidence refutes prosecutors’ claims.
But federal prosecutors quickly fired back in a separate filing that the defense counsel’s claim “makes no sense.”
The back-and-forth comes one day before Hasson is scheduled to be sentenced in a Maryland federal court on gun and drug charges.
Hasson pleaded guilty to those charges in October. Although prosecutors never lodged any terrorism-related charges against Hasson, they say the allegations warrant a 25-year sentence.
Defense lawyer Elizabeth Oyer said a review of Hasson’s complete internet history disputes the government’s terrorism allegations.
Internet searches omitted from the initial discovery show Hasson shooting searches indicate that he was pursuing competitive shooting tournaments, not sniper training as the government says, Ms. Oyer wrote.
She said the government turned over Hasson’s full internet search log only on Monday.
“This major discovery omission reflects a broader problem with the approach the government has taken here,” she wrote. “Had Mr. Hasson actually been indicted and tried for alleged terrorism, the government would not be so free to loosely and selectively use and share data.”
Ms. Oyer said had Hasson gone to trial, that would have been presented as evidence to undercut the government’s assertions.
“The methodology the government has employed is opaque at best,” she wrote. “The allegations here are the product of the government’s selective piecing-together of evidence, in a way that misleadingly distorts the true factual context.”
Prosecutors countered that Ms. Oyer herself was presenting selective information, saying that other evidence including a “hit list” of liberal politicians and a manifesto reportedly written by Hasson point to a terrorist plot.
“The defendant’s argument that he was just interested in participating in a sharpshooting competition at a gun club (of which he apparently was not a member) also makes no sense, in light of the sniper-related searches he conducted including searching for the heights of a stop sign, a door and a garage door — none of which are found on a sharpshooting course, and all of which are more suited to an urban sniper,” they wrote.
Prosecutors have portrayed Hasson in court filings as a self-described white nationalist intent on killing innocent civilians “on a scale rarely seen in this country.”
Prosecutors say he was obsessed with the manifesto of Anders Behring Breivik, a Norwegian right-wing extremist who killed 77 people in a 2011 bomb and shooting attack.
Hasson also is accused of plotting to kill Democrat politicians, including House Speaker Nancy Pelosi of California, Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer of New York, and Sen. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts and an unnamed Supreme Court justice.