March 11, 2019 / 11:06 PM / 10 days ago

Coast Guard officer pleads not guilty to weapon and drug charges

(Reuters) - A U.S. Coast Guard lieutenant accused of stockpiling weapons and plotting to attack Democratic politicians and TV journalists pleaded not guilty to weapon and drug charges on Monday in a federal courtroom in Maryland.

A cache of guns and ammunition uncovered by U.S. federal investigators in the home of U.S. Coast Guard lieutenant Christopher Paul Hasson in Silver Spring, Maryland, U.S., is shown in the photo provided February 20, 2019. U.S. Attorney's Office Maryland/Handout via REUTERS

Authorities arrested Christopher Paul Hasson, 49, on Feb. 15 and seized his stash of 15 firearms and more than 1,000 rounds of ammunition from his residence in Silver Spring, Maryland.

Hasson pleaded not guilty to the drug and weapon charges before a federal magistrate judge in Greenbelt, Maryland, according to court records, and was sent back to jail ahead of his trial.

Prosecutors later said Hasson, who was assigned to the Coast Guard Headquarters in Washington, was a self-described white supremacist with a list of potential targets, including House of Representatives Speaker Nancy Pelosi and MSNBC television host Joe Scarborough.

But so far, prosecutors have not brought charges directly accusing Hasson of plotting an attack.

The initial criminal complaint listed weapon and drug charges. A federal grand jury, in a follow-up indictment on Feb. 27, charged Hasson with two counts of unlawful possession of firearm silencers, one count of unlawful possession of pain medication tramadol and one count of unlawful possession of firearms by an addict of a controlled substance.

A public defender for Hasson could not be reached for comment late on Monday.

A different public defender, Julie Stelzig, told a court hearing last month that Hasson’s gun collection was not extraordinarily large. He formerly served in the U.S. Marine Corps.

Hasson could receive a maximum sentence of 31 years in prison if convicted of all the charges against him, said Marcia Murphy, a spokeswoman for the U.S. Attorney’s Office.

Murphy declined to comment on whether Hasson will face more charges related to accusations he plotted an attack.

Reporting by Alex Dobuzinskis in Los Angeles; Editing by Bill Tarrant and Alistair Bell

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