In his own mind at least, Christopher Hasson was going to be a right-wing avenger, like the #MAGABomber before there was a #MAGABomber: taking down the enemies of Donald Trump through violence, including Jews and George Soros, key media figures, and certain congressional leaders. Except that he would be competent.
Hasson, as it turned out, wasn’t any more competent than Cesar Sayoc (whose mailed pipe bombs turned out not to work). A Coast Guardsman who collected a lethal arsenal and engaged in “red-pilling” young recruits into white nationalism, Hasson—as his sentencing today, in which he received more than 13 years’ prison time, further revealed—was only caught because he engaged in drug deals on the campus of the Coast Guard national headquarters in Maryland. A police search revealed not just his arsenal (six handguns, seven rifles, two shotguns, over 1,000 rounds of ammo), but computers full of plans to commit mass killings.
Friday’s sentence, issued by U.S. District Judge George Hazel in Baltimore, was considerably lighter than the 25-year term sought by prosecutors, but much tougher than the immediate release sought by his defense team. Most significantly, it was nonetheless a tough signal to would-be white-nationalist terrorists about how the courts would approach these difficult cases in which would-be “lone wolves” are caught preemptively.
Judge Hazel found that even though Hasson was not charged with terrorism (mainly because the federal statutes don’t exist), the law not only permitted him to apply a terrorism enhancement to Hasson’s sentence for weapons and drug convictions, it was fully warranted in this case.
“He is not being sentenced for his views,” Hazel said. “He is being sentenced for the actions I feel he was planning to take.”
Speaking from the bench, Hazel observed that “white supremacist ideology is deeply embedded in the soul of this country. The seeds were planted in 1619,” according to courtroom observer Molly Conger. “Those seeds have grown and produced dangerous fruit. Mr. Hasson is but one leaf that has fallen from that tree.”
Hasson’s attorneys had been asking for his immediate release for time served, claiming he was “ready to put this chapter behind him,” primarily because prosecutors chose not to pursue terrorism or other charges against Hasson. An expert hired by the defense, Stephen Hart, wrote a report claiming there was “no plausible scenario” in which Hasson might “threaten public safety or public order.”
Prosecutors took the opposite view. “The defendant—inspired by racist murderers—stockpiled assault weapons, studied violence, and intended to exact retribution on minorities and those he considered traitors. But for the diligent actions of multiple federal law enforcement agencies, we now would be counting bodies of the defendant’s victims instead of years of the defendant’s prison time,” Assistant U.S. Attorney Thomas Windom explained.
Court papers released to the public this week featuring some of prosecutors’ key exhibits in Hasson’s case file underscored the realities of Hasson’s interests and motivations. In interviews with prosecutors, he had acknowledged having been an active racist “skinhead” in the 1990s, but claimed to have shed his white-supremacist views by the late ‘90s and become an upstanding citizen instead.
Those claims ran headlong into evidence that Hasson had remained active as a white-nationalist radical right up to the time of his arrest, including a letter on his computer, drafted in 2017, to the late Harold Covington, a Pacific Northwest-based neo-Nazi who died the next year at age 64.
“How long can we hold out there and prevent niggerization of the Northwest until whites wake up on their own or are forcibly made to make a decision whether to roll over and die or wake up on their own remains to be seen,” Hasson wrote Covington in a 2017 draft letter.
He also boasted that he “has made a good many contacts of normal white people as well as the ‘alt right’ and enjoys ‘red pilling’ them to our cause.” Hasson apparently never sent the letter.[Warning: Offensive contents.] A glimpse at some of Christopher Hasson’s computer searches.
His Internet searches on his Coast Guard work computer, compiled as evidence, make for chilling reading: Hasson searched for “george soros lives where,” “most liberal senators,” followed by “where do senators live in dc.” At one point, he appears to have wanted to target MSNBC’s Morning Joe co-host, Joe Scarborough, a former Republican congressman: Hasson searched for “where is morning joe filmed” and conducted a Google map search to locate Scarborough’s personal residence.
On his home computer, he was even less discreet, searching for “race war” on multiple occasions, as well as “please god let there be a race war”. He conducted a search for the residence of Rep. Maxine Waters, a frequent Trump critic and target. He searched for the home residences of Supreme Court justices Elena Kagan and Sonia Sotomayor. And then there was the search for the “best n---r killing gun”.
Like a number of other would-be American domestic terrorists—most notably the leader of the neo-Nazi group The Base, exposed in a recent Guardian piece by Jason Wilson as Rinaldo Nazzaro, an American man currently living in Russia—there is a powerful undercurrent of fervent Russian nationalism in Hasson’s searches. Several pages are devoted to such searches as “russian far right,” “russian nationalist movement,” and “Why are more Americans moving to Russia?”
The prosecutors, Robert Hur and Thomas Windom, laid out the stakes for the judge’s sentencing in the Wednesday filing:
Judge Hazel delivered a clear signal on Friday.