GREENBELT, Md. — A Coast Guard lieutenant accused by prosecutors of being a domestic terrorist intent on carrying out politically motivated killings inspired by a far-right mass murderer was sentenced Friday to more than 13 years for firearms and drug offenses.
Christopher Hasson, 50, had faced a maximum of 31 years in prison at sentencing by U.S. District Judge George Hazel. The severity of Hasson’s sentence hinged on two starkly divergent explanations for the cache of weapons seized from his Maryland home and the disturbing material found on his computer at Coast Guard headquarters in Washington.
Hazel, who sentenced Hasson to 160 months, said he believes that the Coast Guard officer was preparing to carry out a “mass casualty assault as a way to act out his white nationalist views."
“The need to protect the public is of paramount importance,” the judge said.
In a statement, the Coast Guard said that Hasson will be "involuntarily separated from the service in a manner that terminates all association between this individual and the Coast Guard including any rights, benefits and retirement pay, which he may have otherwise been entitled."
"Any semblance of hate, bigotry or advocacy of violence has no place in our Coast Guard,” Adm. Karl Schultz, commandant of the Coast Guard, said in a statement. “This includes involvement with white supremacist or extremist groups of any type. This behavior is incompatible with the Coast Guard's Core Values of Honor, Respect and Devotion to Duty."
Federal prosecutors recommended a 25-year prison sentence for Hasson. They have called him a domestic terrorist and self-described white nationalist who was intent on carrying out mass killings. But they didn’t file any terrorism-related charges against him.
Defense attorneys urged Hazel to spare Hasson from a prison term and sentence him to jail time served since his February 2019 arrest. Hasson’s lawyers accused Justice Department prosecutors of fabricating a bogus narrative that the married father of two grown children was planning a terrorist attack.
After Hasson’s arrest, prosecutors filed a memo saying the Coast Guard officer "intends to murder innocent civilians on a scale rarely seen in this country." They also said Hasson drafted and tried to delete a June 2017 email in which he wrote that he was “dreaming of a way to kill almost every last person on the earth.”
Prosecutors claimed Hasson drew up what appeared to be a computer spreadsheet hit list naming House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer and Democratic presidential hopefuls, including Sen. Elizabeth Warren. He also mentioned several network TV journalists, including MSNBC's Chris Hayes and Joe Scarborough and CNN's Chris Cuomo and Van Jones.
Hasson’s attorneys urged the judge to “strip away all of the speculation and rhetoric” and sentence Hasson “proportionately” for the crimes to which he pleaded guilty.
“The government’s unproven claims about his private thoughts and beliefs and its conjecture about his plans and motives have no place in the sentencing courtroom and should have no bearing on the outcome,” they wrote.
Hasson ordered at least 4,650 tramadol pills from internet distributors and had them shipped to his homes in Maryland and Currituck, North Carolina, according to Assistant U.S. Attorney Thomas Windom. The prosecutor said Hasson consumed most of the pills, often at work.
-- Hope Hodge Seck contributed to this report.
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