At Trial, Undercover Officer Shares Interpretation of Recorded Conversations with ‘NATO 3’
An undercover Chicago police officer Mehmet Uygun took the witness stand and gave testimony in the trial of the “NATO 3.” His testimony came days after another undercover officer provided testimony for the jury.
The “NATO 3?—Brian Jacob Church, Brent Betterly and Jared Chase—each face terrorism and other felony conspiracy charges. They traveled from Florida to Chicago for protests that were planned against the NATO summit. They had organized with Occupy groups in Miami and Fort Lauderdale.
Two undercover cops from the Chicago police department’s intelligence unit, Officer Nadia Chikko and Officer Mehmet Uygun, became protesters and infiltrated the activist community that was preparing for protests around the summit, particularly May 18, when a large demonstration was planned.
The undercover cops were with them when they took beer bottles, filled them with an unknown amount of gasoline and then put cloths in each of them to make what prosecutors have said were Molotov cocktails.
The prosecution read a transcript of conversations that police recorded with wire devices while they were interacting with the defendants. Uygun then provided the jury with his impression or take on what he thought the men had been saying at the time.
On May 4, during a meeting in Palmisano Park in Chicago, Chase said, “You guys bring any Molotov cocktails?” Uygun, who was known as “Mo” to people in the activist community, said, “I mean, I’ll make you some, you know.” He told the jury he said this so he could be “included.”
One conversation led him to believe that Church wanted to make “sock bombs.” He did not know what a “sock bomb” was and later looked it up “on Google.” (The prosecutor didn’t bother to ask what source he was reading when he determined what exactly a “sock bomb” happened to be.)
Chase said something about how police would not shoot into a crowd. Uygun testified that he thought this meant what he said and also that he would be able to throw a Molotov at police.
When Chase said, “Cops get lit on fire every fuckin’ time,” during a conversation when Molotovs came up, Uygun suggested that Chase was saying “police get lit on fire all the time with Molotov cocktails.”
Church said something about suspecting someone they knew was a “fucking fed.” Uygun responded that if he was “lurking” he should “point him out.” Uygun testified that this showed Church was worried about “counter-surveillance measures” and he said he should point him out so if he was a police officer he could look out for the officer’s safety and warn him.
When Church later said, “We were thinking about a little more than protesting,” Uygun interpreted this as a reference to possibly attacking Obama’s re-election campaign headquarters.
Chase said, “You guys been down there? What’s it look like?” Uygun said it was a “silver building. Church wondered about the security for the building. And Uygun testified in court that he understood they were asking about “counter-surveillance.” (Note: There has been no evidence presented that the “NATO 3” ever went to Obama’s headquarters even though they talked about it.)
Uygun mentioned he knew a “bouncer” and could “give him a heads up” when he was talking to Church about recruiting people for attacks. Uygun told the jury this person would have been “another undercover police officer” if he had ever been needed.
At one point, Chikko said, “You guys don’t know where to get pipes?” Chase said they would find some. Church believed he could get them from some “steel mills.” Uygun testified he was seeing where we were “at with metal pipes and if they had any at the time.”
Also on May 4, Uygun said, “We got a whole nine days. Whole nine days and ain’t got shit to do,” and Church replied, “We could figure out stuff to do in the meantime.” Uygun interpeted this as meaning that something would happen before May 15th—the attack on Obama’s headquarters.
Uygun testified that he said something about bringing a “30-pack” of beer over to the apartment where the “NATO 3” were staying because he was “just trying to get invited to the residence.” He testified he did not actually bring over a “30-pack.”
On May 14, when Betterly said he planned to “be there for the whole summit. Be there for the last day then bounce,” Uygun testified that he thought this meant Betterly would “wait for the last day of NATO to do” what Betterly “wanted to do.” (Uygun did not specify what it was that he thought Betterly planned to do.)
In a conversation on the same day, “acid bombs” came up and Uygun said something about previously making a Drano bomb. He never had made one. “I was just talking to include myself in the conversation,” Uygun testified.
Church said he would be “looking for all them motherfuckers”—the police that stopped in his vehicle in early May. He would be looking for an African-American officer in his uniform that was his screensaver. The officer was a bike cop who had harassed or hassled him.
Uygun later stated, “Yeah, Molotovs, make it rain. We should just do like a mob of them.” This seems like encouragement of the criminal act, but, if you ask Uygun, this was just a part of staying “included.”
Betterly later said, “Only way to make proper Molotovs is gas.” To which Uygun said, “I got like 2 bucks We’re gonna fill up a little gas can.”
Uygun testified that he understood that Betterly thought gas was needed to make them and Chase “wanted to do it so I asked where the gas station was.” He did proceed to ask where the gas station was located, but Chase had not said anything about wanting to make Molotovs right before he said he had two dollars for gas. Betterly said it was proper to use gas but what Chase may have said was not highlighted in this part of the prosecution’s cross-examination, even though it would seem to be critical.
As one might be able to tell, there are some questionable or eye-brow raising conclusions being drawn from statements made by defendants. He drew a lot of inferences about what they were saying.
On May 2, before obtaining the court order authorizing wire devices, Chikko and Uygun met Church at a restaurant called the White Palace Grill. They had no wire devices yet they shadowed Church as he apparently led them to Chase Bank tower in in the downtown area. He touched the glass and somehow claimed to have measured the thickness. He talked about the “entry point” for his attack and how he would destroy as much as possible. He said something about wanting to do a four station simultaneous attack to damage police vehicles. He asked where he could buy three assault rifles.
This is what both Chikko and Uygun have claimed happened. Since there is no recording, it is hard for the defense to prove that they may have been asking Church to lead them around downtown and talk about what he might do to conduct alleged attacks during the NATO summit. Nevertheless, as with this whole operation, it is the defense’s belief that they were encouraged to do much of what they are accused of doing by the two undercover officers.
Prosecutors had Uygun show the jury the weapons that Church legally possessed – knives, a bow and arrow, a sword, a throwing star. The jury had already had these pieces of evidence presented to them. The defense objected and argued this was “unnecessary and purposely prejudicial.” But the judge allowed prosecutors to continue.
The use of the word “included” is significant for the defense. Chikko maintained that she was not an infiltrator, and, in fact, the police department had not authorized an operation to infiltrate any group. Yet, it has been clear all along that they became a part of this group—the immediate social network of activists who knew and interacted daily with the “NATO 3” in early May.
Finally, Uygun said that he went through the conversations that came up in court “numerous times” with his partner, Chikko. They even “initialed each conversation.”
There should be nothing about these conversations that he does not remember when the defense begins to cross-examine him on Monday.