Justice Department prosecutors urged a federal appeals court to uphold a prison sentence of more than 13 years for a former Coast Guard officer accused of plotting a terrorist attack inspired by infamous mass murderers and far-right extremists.
The arguments from federal prosecutors in Maryland came in a court filing Friday, about three months after attorneys for Christopher Hasson asked the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals to let him withdraw his guilty plea or else throw out his sentence. The main area of contention in the appeal case is whether a federal judge in Maryland properly applied a terrorism enhancement to the sentence of the former lieutenant, who was not charged or convicted of a terrorism-related offense.
Hasson's attorney in the appeal argued that the defendant's 160-month prison term was roughly four times longer than sentencing guidelines would have called for if U.S. District Judge George Hazel had not mistakenly applied the terrorism enhancement to the sentence. Federal prosecutors on Friday countered that Hazel properly applied the enhancement.
Prosecutors wrote that by the “plain wording” of the sentencing guidelines, “there is no requirement that the defendant have committed a federal crime of terrorism. All that is required is that the offense involved or was intended to promote a federal crime of terrorism.”
Hasson, 51, pleaded guilty in October to possessing unregistered and unserialized silencers, being a drug addict in possession of firearms, and illegal possession of tramadol, an opioid painkiller. He is serving his sentence at a medium-security federal correctional facility in North Carolina.
Federal prosecutors have described Hasson as a domestic terrorist and self-described white nationalist. In an earlier court filing, prosecutors said Hasson appeared to be planning attacks inspired by the manifesto of Anders Behring Breivik, the Norwegian far-right terrorist who killed 77 people in a 2011 bomb-and-shooting rampage.
Prosecutors also said 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 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.
Investigators found 15 guns, including seven rifles, and more than 1,000 rounds of ammunition, when they searched Hasson’s basement apartment in Silver Spring.
Hasson had faced a maximum prison sentence of 31 years at sentencing. Hazel said he believes the officer was preparing to carry out a “mass casualty assault as a way to act out his white nationalist views.”
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