The jury in the trial of the “NATO 3″ in Chicago is now deliberating after nearly three weeks of proceedings. They face charges that include material support for terrorism, conspiracy to commit terrorism, possession of an incendiary device, solicitation to commit arson. The jury will decide whether the three young men are what Illinois state prosecutors believe they are: “terrorists.”
Brian Jacob Church, Brent Betterly and Jared Chase, who came here for protests at the NATO summit, were targeted by undercover police and then arrested for their alleged involvement in making Molotov cocktails late in the evening on May 16, 2012. This was a little over two days before the NATO meeting.
Prosecutor Thomas Biesty told the jury a story that amounted to quite a fantasy of radical terror. He argued the men had “power and the intent to exercise control” over the Molotov cocktails that were made. They knowingly possessed and manufactured them with the intent to use because they gave the Molotov cocktails “wicks,” which are “timing devices.”
Four beer bottles had been filled with gasoline three-quarters of the way and bandanna clothes had been stuffed inside them. Undercover officers Nadia Chikko and Mehmet Uygun may have been involved but these men were just responsible and involved in making these devices for their conspiracy.
He outlined a list that he said showed the men had provided “material support” for their own act of planned terrorism, which they never were able to commit.
The money they were able to scrape together for the ride up from Florida, where they lived, was “currency or financial securities.” Betterly had a “food stamp card.” He used public government assistance to eat food on the way to Chicago. They had a friend who was supposed to transfer some money through Western Union so they could finance their trip, but it never came through. They were “supporting each other” to “get here for the riot,” Biesty said.
There was “lodging.” They had “training.” They taught “de-arrest tactics” to undercover officers. (Except, in the recorded conversations, this terrorist training lasts all of about three minutes.)
The men had “communications equipment”—a police scanner. Why? Because Biesty argued they were at “war” with the police and wanted to hear what they were saying. (Of course, police scanners are not illegal and can be bought on Amazon.com.)
There were “weapons.” A guitar case full of weapons, which the prosecutors rarely note were legally possessed, were brought up here. Church brought knives, a sword, a sling shot, a bow and arrow and a throwing star. Thomas Durkin, defense attorney for Chase, held up the “rinky-dink” sling shot during his closing argument and said mockingly this is the weapon of mass destruction, “tools of the terrorism trade.” He added, “Give me a break.”
The prosecution produced no conversations or evidence that the men ever intended to use any of these weapons.
There were “explosives.” They talked about Molotovs, napalm, acid bombs, potassium permanganate, muriatic acid and pipe bombs. The men knew what they were talking about because a bomb technician from the Chicago police department told the jury explained what each of these explosives were. Chase talked about napalm to undercover officer Mehmet Uygun after gas was bought. (This conversation, however, was not recorded because he left his backpack with the recording device on the back porch of the apartment. He believed carrying it to the gas station would be suspicious.)
There was “personnel.” Church wondered if they could get 16 people together for four simultaneous attacks on four police stations. (Except, there is no evidence he ever actually tried to recruit these 16 people for his plan. The evidence that he did reconnaissance work on police stations for an attack is equally absent.)
Still, the prosecutors suggested because someone was on tape saying they would be “down as fuck” to do something violent that constitutes having “personnel.”
The men had “transportation.” They found a way to get to Chicago and they were going to get a parking permit for Blue Cross/Blue Shield in the same building as Obama’s re-election campaign headquarters. The car broke the “geo-fence” around his headquarters. (Except, on cross-examination, Durkin showed that the “geo-fence” could be crossed two to three blocks away from the headquarters. They could have been looking for parking but the prosecutors want the jury to infer from driving around downtown that they were casing out the scene for terrorist targets.)
There were “expert services” or “expert assistance,” Biesty argued. Chase knew things like how to make a Molotov and that fumes required a spark to make a fireball. So, altogether, the men provided “material support for terrorism.”
A lawyer for Chase, Joshua Herman, explained to the judge on February 4 that “material support for terrorism” charges are “designed for people not part of the conspiracy.” They are “not designed for the principal terrorist conspirators.” They are for the guy who sends $10,000 to some organization that can be linked to a terrorist organization.
What is the terrorist organization these men provided “material support”? How can they be both material supporters and main conspirators in the alleged plot?
Biesty concluded by asking if these men were “bumbling fools” or “cold and calculated terrorists who came to get on the world stage?”
“They are terrorists and they were here to commit a terrorist act,” he said.
The scene in the courtroom only became more mad when Assistant State’s Attorney Jack Blakey went before the jury to give final arguments to the jury.
Blakey repeated, “Are you ready to see a police on fire?” He said in a measured tone that this had been heard a lot in this case. That would be because prosecutors have insisted on repeating this line allegedly uttered by Church, even though the belief that this was said depends on the credibility of undercover officers because the statement was not recorded by any wire device.
“A police officer on fire,” Blakey said again. This what the city did not know it was in for. Suddenly, shouting at the top of his lungs at the jury, Blakey bellowed, “What city are these three defendants talking about?”
He said this is a city of students. People working. They are going to school. “What vision did defendants have in mind for Chicago?”
Then, he added, “How dare they crouch behind the legacy of nonviolent protest?” and mentioned Martin Luther King Jr., Gandhi, Mother Teresa. However, the defense attorneys had never suggested their clients were not guilty because all of what they were doing was nonviolent peaceful protest. So, this part of the argument was further evidence of the bias of prosecutors, who have inculcated themselves with this idea that the men could never have peacefully protested during the NATO summit.
He continued telling the jury, “Let me reintroduce you to the crew from Florida.” He gave all the defendants crazy terror-sounding names: Brent Betterly is “Professor Molotov.” He is not just “along for the ride” and knew the world was watching. Jared Chase is the “Captain of Napalm” and the “man with the death wish.” Brian Jacob Church is “Mr. Cop on Fire Himself.” He is a “weapons specialist” and an “idea man.”
The “public understands things with images,” Blakey said. He mentioned the explosion of the Challenger space shuttle and Iwo Jima. The public would have been intimidated if they saw a policeman on fire or a building explode.
Why did they drive up days for violence? Blakey told the jury it was not for Ribfest, Taste of Chicago or Lollapalooza. (All of which is plainly true because those events happen in the summertime, not May.)
He then made a point that would seem to favor the defense. There are banks in Florida and cops. “If they wanted to do destructions,” they did not have to drive days to come up here. Blakey meant this to suggest that “Professor Molotov,” “Captain of Napalm,” and “Mr. Cop on Fire Himself” all had something much more dastardly planned. It could just as easily be argued the other way—that they were not that calculating at all in their acts because they did not just stay in Florida to commit violence where it would have been rather easy and convenient.
Blakey said Chase Bank was their “symbol of NATO” they wanted to attack. They also wanted to go after “small banks.” They wanted to hit a neighborhood bank, “a place where people work, run errands.” They thought it would look great to see a “nice little neighborhood bank engulfed in flames.” (Of course, there is no evidence of any plan to ever target this nice bank with people who “work” and “run errands.”)
He described Molotov cocktails as an “arson machine.” Then he said, “Cops are people and they don’t want to burn.” They do not want to go to work each day and “expect to be hit by firebombs.”
Blakey proceeded to suggest that the three villains in this tale of terror and vengeful radicalism came all the way up from Florida with a “mission of hate” that they wanted to put on the news. They were going to riot in the streets and attack police stations and set pipe bombs off at Obama’s headquarters.
The proof of that is the handwritten pipe bomb making recipe found on the table in a sea of papers from who the hell knows. Is this a coincidence? (Read about this piece of evidence that was admitted here.)
The recipe, Blakey then declared, was going to be for burning down a bank or skyscraper as part of a “wake-up call for a twisted anarchic revolution.” They also had multiple targets and were unsure of which one to hit. This indicated to Blakey they were “so full of hate they don’t know who to hurt first.”
Much of the remainder of this vitriolic argument focused on how the defendants were never drunk as their attorneys had said. “These people were not intoxicated.” Undercover officers would have known because they worked Rush Street at midnight where people can be found drunk all the time. They were actually afraid of drinking too much, he claimed, and they were just casually drinking beer.
It came out in testimony that Church was given at least three beers on one day by an undercover. Uygun first said it was one, then two, then three after Sarah Gelsomino, attorney for Church, confronted him with evidence from recorded conversations.
Scientifically, how much did it take for Church to become drunk? He could not have weighed more than 140-150 pounds. Three or four beers would put him at the blood alcohol level where he was legally drunk in Illinois. In fact, there was one night when Chikko drove his car because he was too drunk to drive. That is on the tapes. So, this is a flat lie that they were never intoxicated in front of police.
But Blakey kept amping up this idea that defense attorneys were arguing the men had been “mind controlled.”
“How do the cops achieve mind control with a few beers?” he asked. “How does this mind control work with respect to Molotovs?” and, referring to the undercover officer, “Do they seem like mind control super spies to you?”
The undercover officers just did their job like we asked them to do, Blakey argued. Yes, they went into punk rock shows, cafes, meetings and other locations and spied on people in the activist community as they instructed to do for their “public safety mission.” They jotted down license plate information of people who were not suspected of anything. They took note of people at meetings, who they would never investigate for crimes. They were looking for anarchist symbols on Division Street and searching for people dressed like the “black bloc,” like Church, Chase and Betterly at the May Day rally in Chicago. Nothing about any of that was problematic.
It then became even more crazy as Blakey argued that Church had been the one to take Chikko “under his wing” and work to recruit her. He also argued that Chikko was not interested in a romantic relationship with Church because she was a lesbian and so she could not have been impressing upon him to do anything. The defense objected because that was never argued with evidence from recorded conversations at all.
Molotovs were brought up first in Florida by Betterly during April. “Do these officers have magical powers to control people they’ve never met in a state that’s thousands of miles away?
Then, he got to the part he had building toward—a reading of the instruction for entrapment. Just prior to this argument he was eager to get the judge to approve this instruction because he believed defense attorneys had suggested the officers were entrapping the “NATO 3.” This was the prosecutors way of punishing defendants for making any statements about the credibility or conduct of police officers that might make them seem like corrupt individuals to the jury.
He read to the jury a person is “not entrapped if predisposed to commit the offense” if “a public officer merely afforded the defendant the opportunity or facility for committing the offense.”
There are, “Many reasons to be proud of being an American.” He said, “You can speak your mind in America.” That is kind of ironic because one could argue many of the statements that are being used against defendants that are wholly unrelated to the evidence in the case prove this to be untrue.
He continued they had hatred, which is permissible and not illegal. “When hatred boils over into plots of violence,” this crosses the line.”
“Administer the law on these men,” Blakey demanded to the jury.
It was a quite a fanatical performance put on by Blakey. It was also possibly an indication of how afraid the prosecutors were after hearing defense closing arguments. They realized their case is in trouble so Blakey took the overzealousness of this case to an even higher level.