Lawyers representing three individuals who came to Chicago in May to protest at the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) summit and who were indicted just over a week ago on terrorism-related charges have obtained a copy of the indictments.
The lawyers from the National Lawyers Guild (NLG) had expected to see official indictments when the three were formally indicted in court, but prosecutors declined to provide a copy of the indictment to the defense, a decision the judge presiding over the hearing called “a little strange.”
The judge had the power to compel state prosecutors to hand over the indictment to the defense, but did not make such an order. The judge instead made it clear the prosecutors had to provide the indictment to the defense by July 2, when the three are scheduled to be arraigned.
The National Lawyers Guild obtained the indictment from the Clerk of the Cook County Circuit Court. What the indictment shows is the three —Brian Church, 22, of Fort Lauderdale, Florida, Jared Chase, 27, of Keene, New Hampshire, and Brent Betterly, 24, who lives in Massachusetts—are not just facing charges of material support for terrorism, possession of an incendiary device, and conspiracy to commit terrorism, which were previously known to the lawyers and the public. The three also face charges of “possession of an incendiary device, attempted arson, solicitation to commit arson, conspiracy to commit arson and two counts of unlawful use of a weapon.” That brings the total number of charges the men face to eleven.
A copy of the indictments is posted online. The “possession of an incendiary device” charges seem to indicate state prosecutors are overcharging the activists: possessed and manufactured any incendiary device and intended to use such device to commit the offense of terrorism, possessed and manufactured any incendiary device and intended to use such device to commit the offense of arson, possessed and manufactured any incendiary device and knew that another intended to use such incendiary device to commit the offense of arson and possessed and manufactured any incendiary device and knew that another intended to use such incendiary device to commit the offense of terrorism.
Infiltrators that went by the names “Mo” and “Gloves,” according to the NLG and Occupy Chicago, allegedly helped law enforcement target and arrest these men. Illinois State’s Attorney Anita Alvarez has claimed they possessed and/or constructed “improvised explosive-incendiary devices” (IEDs) and “various types of dangerous weapons including a mortar gun, swords, a hunting bow, throwing stars, and knives with brass-knuckle handles.” Her office has accused the men of making “Molotov cocktails.” But, as of now, no pictures of these items have appeared in the local press in Chicago and none of the lawyers have been shown these “dangerous weapons.”
The charge that suggests the three “agreed with another to the commission” of arson and “they and/or co-conspirators unknown to the grand jury committed an act in furtherance of that agreement” likely stems from statements provided to the grand jury by the infiltrators.
Chicago NLG spokesperson Kris Hermes says, ”Given that no Molotov cocktails or other incendiary devices have been used at any political demonstration in the U.S. in recent memory, questions of whether law enforcement is in fact provoking or manufacturing criminal activity remain unanswered and extremely relevant.”
The NLG doesn’t know how involved these infiltrators were in the case, but they participated in Occupy Chicago protests in April outside a mental health clinic Mayor Rahm Emanuel wants to shut down. They were arrested in a preemptive raid by police on an apartment in Bridgeport, Chicago, on May 16 with nine others, including the three men charged, and were separated from the nine people arrested. They have not been seen since they were arrested in the raid.
The law enforcement operation bears similarity to previous FBI operations that were designed to push individuals to the brink of committing acts of violence. For example, ahead of the Republican National Convention in 2008, the FBI used infiltrator and provocateur, Brandon Darby, to go after two activists, David McKay and Bradley Crowder.
As noted in previous Dissenter coverage of the case, Michael Deutsch, lawyer for Church, believes the infiltrators met up with Betterly, Chase, and Church at the May Day demonstration in Chicago. He believes these infiltrators then went about trying to convince the three men to engage in a terror plot against the NATO summit. When they failed, the infiltrators planted materials for the authorities to find when they raided the apartment, which makes this case “worse than entrapment.”
The three men are the first to be charged with terrorism under an Illinois state terrorism law that passed a few years after the September 11th attacks. The state prosecutors may be under pressure to not botch the prosecution because of the power this case has to set legal precedent in the state. As a result, defense lawyers and those charged and arrested—including the six others released on May 17 and 18 after the raid—have been subjected to possible legal misconduct and civil liberties violations, such as:
- Disappearing of arrestees after the raid;
- Refusal to show arrestees’ attorneys a search warrant;
- Detention of arrestees without charge for one to two days before six were released without charges;
- Interrogations intended to intimidate and force individuals to falsely confess or snitch on others in the movement;
- Refusal to show any evidence against the arrestees charged with terrorism prior to a bond hearing on May 19;
- Decision by someone in the department to show police records on the arrestees to the Chicago Tribune so they could be turned into boogeymen ahead of a Saturday bond hearing (just before the NATO summit on Sunday and Monday);
- Denial of access to copies of indictments against the men
All of which suggests this is nothing but a preemptive political prosecution. Until the NATO 3 are convicted or the case is, as it should be, dismissed, there will be more instances where the rights or civil liberties of the accused are violated.