NATO Protesters Plead Not Guilty to Terrorism Charges - NBC Chicago

NATO Protesters Plead Not Guilty to Terrorism Charges

Brian Church, Brent Betterly and Jared Chase each face four felony counts for an alleged firebomb plot



    NATO Protesters Plead Not Guilty to Terrorism Charges

    Defense attorneys say charges against men arrested during NATO Summit are trumped up and "ridiculous." Phil Rogers reports. (Published Monday, July 2, 2012)

    Prosecutors told a criminal court judge Monday that three suspects accused in a firebombing plot during the recent NATO summit in Chicago were all caught on secret wiretap recordings.

    The three suspects, Jared Chase, Brian Church, and Brent Betterly, all entered pleas of not guilty, and continue to be held on $1.5 million bond.

    The men, the so-called "NATO 3," were charged during the NATO summit with a wide ranging conspiracy, where they were accused of plotting to firebomb an variety of targets in the city, including police stations, President Barack Obama’s Prudential Building campaign headquarters and Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s north side home.  

    As they entered court, the three smiled at supporters who stood with raised fists in the gallery.  After court, defense attorneys once again decried a case which they alleged existed only in the imaginations of prosecutors.

    "We don’t want to see these people rot in jail with a ridiculous bond," said defense lawyer Thomas Durkin. "They’re not going anywhere. They’re not terrorists."

    The three were charged under a never-before-used state terrorism statute. But Durkin questioned how the state can charge them with a conspiracy which allegedly began October 1, long before the NATO summit in May, calling the allegation "mind boggling."

    "It’s a very interesting conspiracy that would have gone on that long," Durkin said. "How come it wasn’t stopped before they got to Chicago?"

    Durkin said lawyers received the first of the state’s discovery Monday, the mandatory evidence which must be shared by prosecutors. He said none of that evidence indicates any alleged criminal acts prior to May.

    "What is it they did in October, short of perhaps, being part of Occupy?" Durkin asked. "Occupy Wall Street began in (New York’s) Zuccotti Park September 17th, and then lo and behold, according to the state’s attorney of Cook County, 13 days later there’s a conspiracy to come to Chicago to commit terrorism."

    Durkin called the suggestion that the three were engaged in such a lengthy conspiracy, "preposterous," and maintained that the city needed such an important case, to justify the tremendous police presence in the streets during the NATO summit.

    "There would be a lot more questions asked if we were asking for $15 million in overtime and the only thing that happened during NATO was a little skirmish on Cermak Road," he said.

    The attorneys repeated their assertion, that the three suspects were set up by police infiltrators. Defense lawyer Sarah Gelsamino said the evidence tendered by prosecutors Monday only bolstered that view.

    "The undercover provocateurs that infiltrated the Occupy Chicago movement are everywhere in the materials that we saw," Gelsamino said.

    In a motion filed Monday on behalf of defendant Chase, Durkin and his co-counsel Joshua Herman asked for information which might have been gathered by various federal agencies, including the FBI, CIA, the National Security Agency, and the Department of Defense.  

    Noting the wide-ranging period of the alleged conspiracy, they also asked for information from other departments, including police departments in New York, Washington, D.C., Boston and Miami. 

    Outside the courthouse, members of Occupy movement gathered in protest. They connected themselves with a paper "chain" and flew a banner calling for the immediate release of the protesters.