Chicago Tribune Stands Behind State’s Fantasy of Radical Terror, Even Though ‘NATO 3′ Acquitted of Terrorism

Creative Commons-licensed Photo by photographer on Flickr, Ping Ping

Few terrorism cases are lost by the government prosecutors in the United States, whether at the federal level or, in rare instances, at the state level. However, last week, a jury came to a verdict in the “NATO 3″ trial that acquitted three young men of all the terrorism charges they had faced.

It was a huge defeat for Illinois State’s Attorney of Cook County, Anita Alvarez, who angrily refused to admit the state had lost during a press conference after the verdict was announced.

Alvarez emphasized that the “NATO 3″ had still been found guilty of possession of an incendiary device with the intent to commit arson as well as two mob action offenses. However, the state did not bring this case as an arson or mob action case and all along the public had been led to believe that these were “terrorists” on trial. And they were so dangerous that the men were going to be charged with offenses under a largely untested state terrorism statute.

Rather than react to the outcome in the trial by examining the decision by Alvarez to abuse her authority and bring this case as a terrorism case when there was no shred of evidence for such charges, the Chicago Tribune editorial board published a state-identified editorial on February 10 that was a fervent defense of all that Alvarez and other prosecutors did in this case. It stood in sharp contrast to an editorial from the Chicago Sun-Times, which stated, “The Chicago Police and State’s Attorney Anita Alvarez almost comically overreached.”

The Tribune editorial board seemed to argue that defense attorneys were the ones who erred, not prosecutors or police. “Defense attorneys were way out of line when they stepped to the microphones, post verdict, to bash Cook County State’s Attorney Anita Alvarez for pursuing terrorism charges,” according to the editorial.

The notion that this case “trivialized” terrorism or that this was a “politically motivated prosecution” was outright dismissed, as the Tribune editorial board followed the example of prosecutors and pulled more comments from recorded conversations to further demonize them. The editorial board also repeated this wild notion that an attack on four police stations was ever going to happen, even though prosecutors never put forward evidence to prove there had ever been such a plot to attack Chicago police.

Chicago Tribune Stands Behind State’s Fantasy of Radical Terror, Even Though ‘NATO 3′ Acquitted of Terrorism

Creative Commons-licensed Photo by photographer on Flickr, Ping Ping

Few terrorism cases are lost by the government prosecutors in the United States, whether at the federal level or, in rare instances, at the state level. However, last week, a jury came to a verdict in the “NATO 3″ trial that acquitted three young men of all the terrorism charges they had faced.

It was a huge defeat for Illinois State’s Attorney of Cook County, Anita Alvarez, who angrily refused to admit the state had lost during a press conference after the verdict was announced.

Alvarez emphasized that the “NATO 3″ had still been found guilty of possession of an incendiary device with the intent to commit arson as well as two mob action offenses. However, the state did not bring this case as an arson or mob action case and all along the public had been led to believe that these were “terrorists” on trial. And they were so dangerous that the men were going to be charged with offenses under a largely untested state terrorism statute.

Rather than react to the outcome in the trial by examining the decision by Alvarez to abuse her authority and bring this case as a terrorism case when there was no shred of evidence for such charges, the Chicago Tribune editorial board published a state-identified editorial on February 10 that was a fervent defense of all that Alvarez and other prosecutors did in this case. It stood in sharp contrast to an editorial from the Chicago Sun-Times, which stated, “The Chicago Police and State’s Attorney Anita Alvarez almost comically overreached.”

The Tribune editorial board seemed to argue that defense attorneys were the ones who erred, not prosecutors or police. “Defense attorneys were way out of line when they stepped to the microphones, post verdict, to bash Cook County State’s Attorney Anita Alvarez for pursuing terrorism charges,” according to the editorial.

The notion that this case “trivialized” terrorism or that this was a “politically motivated prosecution” was outright dismissed, as the Tribune editorial board followed the example of prosecutors and pulled more comments from recorded conversations to further demonize them. The editorial board also repeated this wild notion that an attack on four police stations was ever going to happen, even though prosecutors never put forward evidence to prove there had ever been such a plot to attack Chicago police.

Alvarez’s press conference remarks after the verdict were quoted. “Let me ask you: What do you think they were going to do with these devices?” she asked. The Tribune editorial board said, “That’s a very good question.”

It is actually “a very good question.” It was the job of prosecutors in the trial to answer the question with evidence, especially because they were the ones bringing charges. Lucky for prosecutors, they were able to convince the judge to give the jury an “entrapment” instruction that would help members downplay the role the undercover police officers played in the construction and possession of Molotov cocktails.

Fear, innuendo and the existence of the beer bottles managed to be enough to convince the jury to convict the three men of arson charges. They found words from recorded conversations—seemingly disparate, said during different days yet linked together by prosecutors—to be enough to discern some “intent” to commit a crime, and prosecutors did not totally lose the case.

But the facts brought out during trial showed that Officer Mehmet Uygun had been the only one to talk about “terrorizing” Chicago. He is the one who raised the idea of buying gas when he said he had $2 for gas. He cut the bandannas to make the wicks for the Molotov cocktails, and he had control of the Molotov cocktails, hiding them from the “NATO 3″ so they would be found when police raided the apartment. And, on the day of May 16, when the Molotov cocktails were made, it is undercover Officer Nadia Chikko, who first raised the idea of making them.

The Tribune editorial board does not appear to be interested in the facts brought out during the trial. They instead put forward an answer driven by the same confirmation bias that led Alvarez to wrongly pursue this case as a terrorism case.

In fact, this excerpt of the editorial is reflective of what was most foul about the case:

Church, Chase and Betterly [the “NATO 3″] came to Chicago looking for trouble. A lot of people did. Remember that week? Thousands of protesters aired countless grievances — about everything from capitalism to European austerity measures to the Keystone pipeline — against the backdrop of the summit, at which heads of state met to discuss international security issues.

Most of the protesters were peaceful, and city officials went to great lengths to facilitate their right to assemble. But police took lots of abuse from the self-described anarchists, who curiously advocated violence as an antidote to war.

Remember the masked agitators, dressed in black, snaking their way to the front of the parade ranks as the Sunday afternoon protest stepped off? Remember the hours long standoff between police and demonstrators bent on storming the summit after the veterans’ anti-war ceremony? Remember how the officers assigned to keep things safe and orderly turned the other cheek as the marchers chanted “One, two, three! (Expletive) CPD!”?

So, when Chase remarked that gasoline “smells like victory” as he assembled Molotov cocktails in the dark, should police have discounted the danger because he cluelessly requested a lighter so he could see better? No. [emphasis added]

In those four paragraphs, the Tribune editorial board reassure the public that the “NATO 3″ were “dangerous” and would have plotted violence because there were apparently others like them, who were part of a tense standoff with police at a protest that was supposed to be peaceful. This is what prosecutors did throughout the trial—expressed their bias against the “NATO 3″ as if it were evidence of crimes. (more…)