CommunityThe Dissenter

In Spite of Political Prosecution, Jury Acquits ‘NATO 3’ of All Terrorism Charges

Defense attorneys Thomas Durkin, attorney for Chase (left), Michael Deutsch, attorney for Church, (center left), Sarah Gelsomino, attorney for Church (center right)

A jury found the “NATO 3” not guilty of all state terrorism charges including material support for terrorism, conspiracy to commit terrorism and possession and manufacturing of an incendiary device with the intent to commit terrorism. They were found not guilty of possessing an incendiary device with the intention to commit arson and not guilty of solicitation of arson. It was a huge victory for defense attorneys in the case.

However, the three men were found guilty of possessing an incendiary device to commit arson, a charge that carries a sentence of up to 30 years in prison. They also were found guilty of possessing an incendiary device with the knowledge that it would be used to commit arson and found guilty of lesser mob action charges, which jurors were able to select if they did not want to find the “NATO 3” guilty of terrorism.

That the judge granted defense attorneys’ motion to have mob action added as a lesser-included offense to the material support for terrorism and conspiracy to commit terrorism charges was key to the outcome. It gave the jury the option of finding them guilty of these charges instead.

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. They were labeled terrorists by the State’s Attorney Office in a criminal complaint that was a fantasy of radical terror.

All of this took place a little over two days before the NATO meeting.

Michael Deutsch, defense attorney for Church, “This is a victory not only for these three young men but a victory for everyone. When you start to trivialize terrorism and charge protesters with terrorism, then we are threatening all kinds of rights to protest and to speak out.”

He called it a “victory for the city of Chicago” and “all the people who came here to protest NATO.” It is obviously disappointing “there were some counts they were convicted of but “the fact of the matter is that [Illinois State’s Attorney of Cook County] Anita Alvarez should be made to be held accountable for politically motivated charges.”

To the idea that Alvarez and prosecutors in this case were pleased, Deutsch said, “They’re not being honest with you. They made a terrorism charge. They promoted it as terrorism. They argued it as terrorism. And they lost each and every one.”

“This is a huge, huge victory,” Thomas Durkin, defense attorney for Chase, said. “You cannot imagine what it takes to stand up to the type of pressure and those type of charges and have a jury stand up to the pressure and innuendo and all the fear thrown around that courtroom and come back and say no..” This is a tribute to the system, Durkin added. It was a “big day for the rule of law” in Chicago and the country.

Alvarez maintained in her comments to reporters, according to Chicago Sun-Times reporter Rummana Hussain, that this case was not “overcharged.”

…”The statute was created for this very purpose. Chicago doesn’t host NATO every year, so everybody is criticizing me for bringing charges under a statute that was never used [in Chicago]. But why is that statute there? The statute was this very purpose,” a visibly angry Alvarez said.

“I did not overcharge. Defense attorneys can say what ever they want. The charges were bought and we felt very strongly that the facts supported the charges and I would bring them again tomorrow with no apologies and no second guessing. Defense attorneys can say whatever they want. They’re being paid to say whatever they want to…”

Alvarez invoked a real terrorism event to insinuate and cling to her fantasy that these men ever were going to commit terrorism, “You know what? My job is public safety, and that’s exactly what we did. Have we forgotten about Boston? Have we forgotten about homemade bombs in backpacks?”

It was representative of this trial. Every day, as the defense demonstrated to the jury that this case was built on bogus evidence manipulated by prosecutors to dupe jurors into drawing inference upon inference, the prosecutors became more rabid in their expression of how these men were “terrorists.”

Alvarez asked a reporter from the Associated Press if he wanted her to throw a Molotov cocktail at him after he asked if this was a defeat.

Talk like that was used as evidence against the men in this case, but she gets to threaten a reporter because she holds the power to bring trumped-up cases against people.

As Deutsch explained, the “NATO 3” were held as if they were terrorists for 20 months in jail. Their bail was set at $1,500,000. The state had wanted the bail to be $5 million. They also told a “horrific story about how [the “NATO 3″] were going to attack Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s house, how they were going to attack the Obama headquarters, how they were going to threaten this city and how they were going to cause chaos in the city.” The state “didn’t make out one bit of that evidence. They were rejected on every aspect of that evidence.”

When asked if overcharging in this case was just a smart strategy on the part of prosecutors to win some convictions on some of the charges, Molly Armour, defense attorney for Betterly, astutely shot that down.

“A prosecutor’s job is to do justice. The prosecutor’s job is to evaluate the case. And they did not because if they had they could have seen cleanly what 12 jurors saw, which is there was no terrorism here. That is a prosecutor’s duty,” she declared.

The case, Deutsch suggested, was all about intimidating people from going to a peaceful demonstration. It was the state’s way of warning Chicagoans that the protest would be violent. There would be terrorists. “That was the part of the whole political motivation, to inhibit peaceful protest against NATO in Chicago,” he said.

Durkin recounted how they had been brought out in shackles and chains.

Back in June 2012, Durkin said, “It all plays as part of the script. Of course they’re going to have to be heavily shackled. How else are you supposed to treat domestic terrorists?” And, “You would be nuts to let them walk around like regular murderers. I mean, they can’t treat them like murderers.”

This is the very real consequence of overcharging and what can happen when prosecutors are allowed to commit abuses of power.

Today, Durkin explained:

The bond became outrageous because of the charge. That’s something somebody ought to ask prosecutors about and their treatment was different. They were kept differently. They were treated as terror suspects. That’s the danger. That’s slippery you begin sliding down. All of a sudden this became a different kind of case. You saw the security that was here for this case. It was as if these people had knocked down the Chase Bank like in that stupid picture. That’s the danger you have. There’s a lot of subtle things that go on when you overcharge and it kind of slides by the boards because nobody pays attention to it. But those of us who work in this every day realize the difference and it’s very draconian and it’s wrong. It’s just flat out wrong.

There’s hysteria in this country still over 9/11 and this fear-mongering that goes on. And I submit to you that one of the reasons that these kinds of cases get brought and some of the domestic terrorism cases you see in federal court are brought in my opinion as I way to justify this national security industrial-complex that has grown up around 9/11 and the trillions of dollars that have been spent. That’s something that I think the citizenry needs to consider.

For what Alvarez did to these three men by labeling them terrorists, Deutsch said she should have to answer “what was the thinking behind it, why she brought these charges, who advised her about it, what was the analysis they brought, how did they justify it, doesn’t she think a jury of regular people from Chicago rejecting it shows that there was no basis for it. All those questions must be posed to Anita Alvarez.”

Durkin argued the case had been brought because Mayor Rahm Emanuel wanted to look good “for spending ridiculous amounts of money” on the NATO meeting. He raised a significant amount of money through World Business Chicago—$40 million. More than half went to police. Another sizeable portion of that money went to terrorism-related prosectuions like the “NATO 3” case.

Armour raised the issue of police conduct, which had been a focus throughout the trial.

“What is going on with this police infiltration of political communities?” Armour asked. “What is going on with the infiltration of Occupy Chicago? These are the unanswered questions of this trial—how the police were able to go into coffee shops in the city of chicago, go to punk rock shows, go to the Heartland Cafe and sit there and take down the license plates and the conversations of ordinary citizens.”

“Those are certainly questions that I think the Chicago police department should be answering and I think that the press, I hope, will continue to try and get some answers for because, you know, a couple years ago under consent decree the police department couldn’t do this kind of activity. And it’s certainly very fascinating that as soon as that was done we’re right back at this business and there’s substantial issues that still need to be answered.”

Durkin concluded, “There have not been very many terrorism cases that the government or the state hasn’t won in this country, which should tell you something right there. This is a huge, huge victory against the war on terror, which ought to be re-examined.”

It is more than reasonable to wonder what would have happened if these men had been black or brown-skinned. Would the jury have regarded the allegations differently, even though advised not to let prejudice influence their verdict? Considering that question is part of that re-examination that is called for.

But these moments tend to be few. “Citizens get to decide who the terrorists are,” was what Durkin said to the jury during closing argument. A sigh of relief can be breathed because the jury did not subscribe to the vitriolic arguments of prosecutors and convict these men of terrorism.

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Kevin Gosztola

Kevin Gosztola

Kevin Gosztola is managing editor of Shadowproof. He also produces and co-hosts the weekly podcast, "Unauthorized Disclosure."