NATO Trial Openings: Suspects Interested in Beer, Not Terrorism - NBC Chicago

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NATO Trial Openings: Suspects Interested in Beer, Not Terrorism



    The trial begins for the three men accused of plotting terrorist attacks during the 2012 NATO Summit. Defense attorneys say prosecutors exaggerated the defendant's actions. (Published Tuesday, Jan. 21, 2014)

    Testimony began Tuesday in the trial of three men accused of plotting attacks against police during Chicago's NATO Summit in May 2012.

    Brent Betterly, Brian Church, and Jared Chase were arrested on the eve of the NATO Summit after police intelligence officers infiltrated their group and reportedly found four molotov cocktails.

    They were charged with terrorism under an Illinois law put in place after The Al-Quaeda attacks on September 11, 2001.

    Prosecutors allege the men came to Chicago from Florida with a guitar case full of knives and other weapons with the intent of disrupting the meetings through violent confrontations with police.

    "They were ready for war," assistant states attorney Michael Thrun told the jury in his opening statement Tuesday.

    Prosecutors say the defendants wanted to create iconic images by fire bombing police cars and stations, but defense attorney Tom Durkin said the three men were more interested in beer and marijuana than terrorism.

    "If these guys are terrorists, we have nothing to worry about," Durkin said.

    Undercover Chicago Police officer Nadia Chikko told the jury that she was approached by Chase at a party after the May Day parade, and he told her he was looking for targets in Chicago he could attack, and was looking for a local person to help identify those targets.

    Chikko said one idea was to fire an arrow with a note attached through a window at Mayor Rahm Emanuel's house.

    Chikko and her partner recorded meetings with the defendants where other attacks were reportedly discussed.

    Defense attorney Sara Gelcemio called the police recordings "idle chatter and drunken bravado fueled by incredible amounts of alcohol and drugs."

    She told the jury that the three defendants never posed a threat to the city because "nothing ever happened."

    "The issue is whether or not this was done with the intent to coerce or intimidate a significant portion of the population," Durkin said.

    Dozens of photographs of the suspects with the undercover officers were presented in court. The recordings are also expected to be played during the trial.