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The "NATO 3" Indicted. The Charges: We'll Get Back to You on That.

By Ralph Lopez - Posted on 13 June 2012

Prompting even the judge to express bewilderment at the prosecution's unusual withholding of a new indictment against the NATO 3, Brian Church, Jared Chase and Brent Betterly, a grand jury on Tuesday returned the indictment after the three were arrested for allegedly planning to recruit people to throw Molotov cocktails at police stations, attack Obama campaign headquarters, and other targets ahead of the NATO protests in Chicago last month.  The arrests took place after police infiltrators, acknowledged by the CPD, infiltrated the apartment where the three were staying.  

The apartment was raided and the three were arrested six days after they posted a video on Youtube of a traffic stop in which they were harassed by Chicago police, including what appears to be an unconstitutional trunk search.  Protesters say the charges are retaliation for posting the video.

In the video the police can be heard joking about Chicago in 1968 and taking "billyclub[s] to the f-ing skull," and telling the young men, who tell the police that they were going to the upcoming NATO protests, that they will be "looking" for "each and every one of you."  The defendants now face 85 years in prison.

CBS local wrote yesterday:

It’s not unheard of for prosecutors to withhold the details of an indictment from defense lawyers until a case is assigned to a trial judge, but even the judge at Tuesday’s hearing seemed surprised that in this case, prosecutors are playing things so close to the chest.

The move means, for the so-called “NATO 3,” their lawyers won’t get the details of the indictment until July 2, at the earliest.

The previous statement of charges filed in Cook County by state's attorney Anita Alvarez include allegations which seem to be riddled simple errors such as ascribing "timing devices" to Molotov cocktails, even though these types of firebombs have none, but are made to ignite upon shattering.  

The original charges filed also describe the confiscation of "computer equipments, recording devices, video cameras, cell phones," even though these items are legal.  The original charges allege the presence of "swords, hunting bow, throwing stars, and knives with brass-knuckle handles," which the defense has labeled as "ridiculous" and "sensational."

The original charge sheet reads:

"As part of their efforts, the defendants also possessed and/or constructed improvised explosive-incendiary devices and various types of dangerous weapons (including a mortar gun, swords, hunting bow, throwing stars, and knives with brass-knuckle handles), as well as police counter-measures such as pre-positioned shields, assault vest, gas mask equipment and other gear to help hide their identity during their operations."

The original charge sheet (pdf copy here) states that police:

"obtained a judicially-approved, no-knock search warrant for the target location" and "analyzed various items from the search, including weapons, four completed Molotov Cocktails, written plans for the assembly of pipe bombs, Chicago area map, computer equipments, recording devices, video cameras, cell phones, and an assault vest..."

The defendants appeared in court shackled and in orange jumpsuits, which their attorneys complained contributed to a “prejudicial atmosphere."  CBS noted that even accused killers are allowed to appear in street clothes or dress clothes in court appearances:

Most defendants, including accused killers, regularly appear in bond court without handcuffs or shackles, although they are escorted by sheriff’s deputies.

On the indictment, CBS reported:

...when defense attorneys asked for a copy of the indictment in court, prosecutors declined, prompting [the defendants' attorney Michael] Deutsch to tell the judge, “I don’t understand.”

Judge Adam Burgeois Jr. said he didn’t understand either, “but that’s the way they’re doing it.”

National Lawyers Guild attorney James Fennerty said:

“For the city to use such sensational charges in this way, before a national political demonstration, hiding the evidence and not indicting for a month after the arrests is indefensible. These activists are sitting in jail on prohibitively high bonds while the state tries to piece together its case, keeping everyone in the dark.”

The case is unusual in a number of respects, one of which is the relative lack of federal involvement.  The Nation noted:

"Ordinarily, federal attorneys handle terrorism-related charges, but Illinois was one of at least thirty-six states to adopt anti-terrorism laws in the weeks after the 9/11 attacks, and the decision by the Cook County State’s Attorney Anita Alvarez’s office to test Illinois’s law for the first time against activists has left many wondering why federal authorities aren’t more involved."

The CPD confiscated beer-making equipment in the raid on Wednesday night, May 16, the same night the previous charges say the three were observed filling beer bottles with gasoline.  Upon the release of the first set of charges, the defense released photos of the beer making equipment, which appeared to be full of dark, foamy liquid resembling not gasoline, but beer.

Confiscated beer making equipment

In order to carry out the alleged busy schedule of targeted mayhem, which included plans to "destroy police cars and attack four CPD stations with destructive devices..." and to attack "the Campaign Headquarters of U.S. President Barack Obama, the personal residence of Chicago Mayor Rahm [Emanuel], and certain downtown financial institutions," the defendants were to "recruit four groups of four coconspirators (for a total of sixteen people.)"

In effect, the previous charges read that the defendants were to approach strangers and convince them to throw firebombs at police stations and other "targets."  Protesters present in the apartment have told reporters that the two police infiltrators, whom they say went by the names "Mo" and "Gloves," tried to incite the defendants and others to acts of violence.  When they were refused, those present in the apartment say, the infiltrators planted evidence.  The use of police infiltrators has been acknowledged by CPD police chief Garry McCarthy.

The raid and the alleged filling of beer bottles with gasoline took place on May 16, six days after the video of police harassment was posted by the defendants on Youtube, after it quickly went viral.

Bill Vassilakis, the landlord of the apartment where the activists were staying, and the owner of the beer-making equipment, said one of the defendants, Betterly, was an industrial electrician who had volunteered to help with wiring at The Plant, a former meatpacking facility that has been turned into a food incubator with the city's backing.  He expressed incredulity at the charges, saying:

"All I can say about that is, if you knew Brent, you would find that to be the most ridiculous thing you've ever heard. He was the most stand-up guy that was staying with me. He and the other guys had done nothing but volunteer their time and energy."

Traffic Stop
(Unedited version 27 minutes)


Fox News report on "Mo" and "Gloves"Drop the Charges!

Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel's office: 312.744.5000 (email) Cook County Prosecutor Anita Alvarez: 312- 603-1880 (email: )


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