WILKES-BARRE — A Luzerne County man who is facing federal weapons charges and allegations that he pledged to commit a hate crime is back behind bars after an in-patient psychiatric evaluation.
A judge ordered John Jacob “Jake” Hasay, 21, be returned to Lackawanna County Prison from First Hospital in Kingston after a federal prosecutor objected to letting Hasay transfer to a facility that was not secure.
That move followed an attempt by defense attorney Al Flora Jr. to secure conditional release for Hasay following his discharge from the hospital, where he had been admitted Sept. 15.
Flora’s motion proposed that Hasay, the son of senior District Judge John Hasay of Shickshinny, would be required to take anti-depressant medications and undergo partial hospitalization.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Phillip J. Caraballo, in arguing against allowing Hasay to attend a mental health program that he could leave at will, raised concerns about protecting the community — and protecting Hasay from himself.
Flora described Hasay as “an immature kid” who made statements on social media that prompted the FBI to file charges under seal Aug. 22 against the Navy veteran, who was medically discharged in June after three months of service.
“There is nothing to say he ever attempted to act out toward a particular race,” Flora said Monday afternoon in a phone interview.
“This kid is no racist,” Flora said.
Nonetheless, the Southern Poverty Law Center picked up Hasay’s story and posted it on its website Sept. 20. The Center, based in Montgomery, Ala., said it’s “dedicated to fighting hate and bigotry and to seeking justice for the most vulnerable members of our society.”
Hasay’s case remains under seal and lists only two charges — felony of a machine gun and possession of an unregistered firearm — between Nov. 3, 2017, and Jan. 27 of this year.
Flora said Hasay had a semi-automatic pistol that, with an attachment he bought, converted to an automatic weapon. Under federal law, any automatic is classified as a machine gun and requires a license that Hasay did not have, Flora said.
In a court document filed Sept. 7, Caraballo wrote: “Accordingly, 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.”
Caraballo was amenable to Hasay going to a secure medical facility after the initial evaluation, but not one he could leave voluntarily with 72 hours’ notice. But the prosecutor deferred to U.S. Magistrate Judge Joseph Saporito Jr. to determine “an appropriate resolution to this issue.”
Saporito set conditions for hospitalization and required that once in-patient treatment was finished, Hasay be returned to federal custody to await future court proceedings.
After a hearing last month, Saporito concluded the evidence against Hasay was “compelling” and ordered that he be held pending trial.
“The offense with which defendant is charged, while not a crime of violence or narcotic drugs, has the potential for violence based on statements made by defendant through social media or letters,” Saporito explained in his order.
Testimony at the hearing from Dr. Richard Fischbein that Hasay is in need of a psychiatric evaluation and that he suffers from “episodic alcohol abuse” factored into Saporito’s decision.
Flora said Hasay has no criminal record and has been cooperative with authorities throughout the investigation. The case has been hard on Hasay’s family, Flora said, adding, “It’s a tragic thing all around.”
Reach Jerry Lynott at 570-991-6120 or on Twitter @TLJerryLynott.