- The Washington Times - Friday, January 31, 2020

A Coast Guard lieutenant accused of plotting a domestic terrorist attack on “a massive scale” is going to jail for more than 13 years for firearm and drug crimes.

Christopher Hasson, a self-described white nationalist, faced a maximum of 31 years when he was sentenced Friday in U.S. District Court in Greenbelt, Maryland.

He was arrested last year and pleaded guilty to firearm and drug charges in October, but federal prosecutors said he planned a murder rampage targeting liberal politicians, cable television pundits and a Supreme Court justice.

Yet the Justice Department prosecutors never lodged any terrorism-related charges against Hasson. Instead, they argued that getting him into custody on the drug and firearm charges was a necessary step to thwarting his lethal attack.

Prosecutors wanted U.S. District Judge George J. Hazel to lock Hasson up for 25 years, saying he posed a danger to the community after penning hit lists and conducting internet searches for the home addresses of at least one of his targets, a Supreme Court justice.

Hasson told the court he was “embarrassed” by the web searches and writing. He confessed to having “biased thoughts,” but said he was working with religious leaders to treat everyone equally.

He renounced his white nationalist writings.

“I have never hurt anyone in my life and I was not planning to in any way, shape or form,” said Hasson.

Hasson’s public defender, Elizabeth Oyer, argued that the terrorism accusations are bogus and asked for probation.

Probation is the typical sentence for the low-level drug and firearm charges to which Hasson copped a guilty plea, she said.

Ms. Oyer has portrayed Hasson as a married family man with a respected military career. Years of abusing tramadol, a powerful opioid, caused Hasson to fantasize about a terror attack he did not intend to commit.

Prosecutors pointed to an alleged “hit list” naming left-leaning politicians and journalists and internet searches an address for a liberal Supreme Court justice as proof he planned a plot. They also presented evidence of white supremacist writings and apocalyptic fantasies penned by Hasson.

Stephen Hart, an expert in violent risk assessment, testified for the defense on Friday. He evaluated Hasson over nine months and concluded that is not a threat.

“It was my opinion that Mr. Hasson does not have a history of violence. I don’t believe he posed a risk of violence in the future,” Mr. Hart told the court.

Hasson had fantasized about committing atrocities to cope with stress in his life, including marriage difficulties, getting older and approaching the military’s mandatory retirement age, he said.

“I found no indication that he intended to act on these things,” said Mr. Hart.

Mr. Hart said the government responded to the case “entirely appropriately” but Hasson didn’t need to be incarcerated. On cross-examination, he said wouldn’t mind living next to Hasson, whom he described as a “civil and polite person.”

He testified “had thoughts in his head that were racist, but Hasson worked well with a “diverse set of colleagues.”

Mr. Hart testified Hasson had been dealing with some of the issues that caused him to fantasize about killing people for a long time but did not have a history of violence. He dismissed the alleged hit list as just a spreadsheet of figures of interest to Hasson, but there was no indication of an intent to harm.

“If he wanted to make a plan, he could have made a plan,” he said.

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