Attorney Disputes Claim Of Planned Hate Crime
SHICKSHINNY — Federal prosecutors allege a former U.S. Navy serviceman with a history of espousing white supremacist views threatened to commit a hate crime and was in possession of an illegal machine gun.
But the attorney for John Jacob Hasay says he’s no Nazi — just an immature kid who posted some “stupid stuff” on social media.
“The government did not find any documents suggesting that he was planning to do any type of hate crime,” defense attorney Al Flora Jr. said Tuesday. “It’s beginning to more look like posting by essentially a 22-year-old who is pretty immature and didn’t realize the impact that some of these social media posts would have.”
Hasay, the son of former Magisterial District Judge John E. Hasay, is charged with possessing a machine gun and possessing an unregistered firearm. The charges do not allege he was engaged in a plot to commit an act of violence.
The complaint against Hasay is sealed, but Flora said the charges stem from Hasay’s alleged possession of a semi-automatic pistol that had been illegally modified to make it fire automatically.
Hasay — who served briefly in the Navy before being medically discharged earlier this year — is a man who is “fascinated with firearms,” but he’s not a violent criminal, Flora said.
However, after Hasay’s arrest last month, the U.S. Attorney’s Office argued that he should be detained pending trial because he is a danger to the community.
“The United States furnished (the) court with examples of Hasay’s written promise to commit a hate crime, ready access to illegally modified firearms and black-market firearm component dealers, and reoccurring advancements of Nazi and white supremacist-related ideologies,” Assistant U.S. Attorney Phillip J. Caraballo wrote in a filing.
U.S. Magistrate Judge Joseph F. Saporito Jr. subsequently ordered Hasay detained, noting that while he is not charged with a violent offense there is the potential for violence “based on statements made by (Hasay) through social media or letters.”
Court documents do not detail the posts or statements that prosecutors attributed to Hasay. Flora said some of the posts included a picture of Hasay with a gun in his mouth, a post labeled as a “suicide note” and an image of the Confederate battle flag with the caption to the effect of: “This is how we celebrate Black History Month.”
But Flora said that image was an older picture, and said he does not believe Hasay is a racist.
“I can tell you when dealing with the kid, I don’t get any sense that he’s a racist in any sense of the word, or a white supremacist,” Flora said.
Public posts that were visible on Hasay’s Facebook page Tuesday depict a man who is keenly interested in guns — he is pictured holding and shooting several semi-automatic assault rifles — but do not suggest racial animosity.
In fact, in a Dec. 17, 2015, post, Hasay said that while he is a registered Republican, the views of then-candidate Donald Trump “scare” him.
“It is not right, nor the American way to exclude a member of religious society or being as an outsider, whether they be Muslim, Jewish, Christian, or otherwise,” Hasay wrote. “While I must say our program to allow Syrian refugees into this country MUST be reconsidered and changed, we, as Americans, should allow all people who want to be Americans, to be Americans.”
The question of whether Hasay was planning a hate crime is likely to arise again. According to court records, Flora subsequently filed a motion for reconsideration of the detention order, and Saporito agreed to release Hasay for a psychiatric evaluation because of a “depressive disorder.”
After a little more than a week at First Hospital in Kingston, Hasay was discharged with instructions to continue taking an anti-depressant and a finding that he “does not pose an acute danger to himself or the community,” Flora wrote in a motion seeking Hasay’s pre-trial release.
Saporito has yet to rule on that motion. Hasay, who was released from First Hospital on Monday, is back in custody at the Lackawanna County Prison pending another hearing.