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NATO Protester Denied Medical Care In Prison After Officer Broke His Nose

The last incarcerated member of the “NATO 3” says the Pontiac Correctional Center, where he is being held, refuses to give him treatment for a broken nose and will not provide him access to medication for his Huntington’s Disease or Hepatitis C.

In May 2012, Chicago hosted a North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) meeting to discuss policies in the Afghanistan War. A number of activists traveled to the city to protest NATO, including Jared Chase, Brian Jacob Church, and Brent Betterly. They became known as the “NATO 3” after they were targeted by undercover Chicago police and arrested on May 16. The state of Illinois accused the “NATO 3” of making explosives.

The Illinois State’s Attorney Office quickly labeled the young men “terrorists” in a criminal complaint and charged them with state terrorism offenses. On February 7, 2014, after a lengthy trial in which the key role of undercover cops became even more apparent, a jury acquitted the “NATO 3” of all terrorism charges. However, they were each found guilty of arson-related offenses and “mob action” charges.

In April 2014, a judge sentenced Church to five years in prison, Betterly to six years, and Chase to eight years for arson offenses. The judge allowed prosecutors to present evidence against Chase related to the alleged aggravated battery incident involving the spraying of urine and feces on a guard, even though the state intended to pursue a separate trial. He accepted a plea deal in relation to charges stemming from this incident on April 11 and was sentenced to another year in prison.

The “Free the Nato 3” support organization published letters from Chase on their website. One of the letters from Chase recounts how he was assaulted by an officer at the Pontiac facility in Illinois.

The incident occurred on December 3, 2015, in the morning. Chase says he was called for a “healthcare pass.” An officer demanded he put his cell in “compliance” or he would not be allowed to get his pass. Chase argued with the officer until another officer in the facility was called to his cell. Chase argued with that officer.

Chase spit out in front of his cell. According to Chase, the officer said “nice try.” Two officers came later to have him cuffed and taken downstairs. The facility moved him to another cell. When he was moving, one of the two officers followed him into his cell as Chase knelt down to take his shackles off.

As Chase recounts in his letter:

…X tackled me from behind into the ground face first. He repeatedly smashed my face into the concrete so hard and so many times he broke my nose, smashed my front teeth though my lip, splitting my lips. I had two black eyes, my face was completely swollen, my cheek bone was broken and there was blood coming from my mouth, nose and ear. My nose did not heal, my cheek is still broken and my teeth are now loose and crooked.

The facility has apparently refused to give Chase medical attention for four months. He has been unable to see a nurse, doctor, or a psychiatric worker, who could further evaluate him.

“I am denied my basic right to health care,” Chase asserts. “I also have Hepatitis C and Huntington’s Disease and am receiving no medical care or attention at all.”

This letter is dated April 2016. In another letter dated May 12, 2016, Chase quickly updates a “pen pal.”

“I am still not receiving any medical treatment,” Chase shares. “It’s been six months since my nose was broken. I am still being denied treatment. Now I have a sinus infection, my nose is infected, and I am getting terrible aches and migraines.”

The Illinois Department of Corrections (IDOC) has taken away “good time,” which Chase has served. His release date has been pushed to November 6, 2017.

Back in April, after Chase’s sentence, Betterly told Shadowproof every time he sees Chase he feels like he is watching him die a little more right before his eyes.

Betterly said Chase looked horrible. He was in a brown jumpsuit, which indicated the prison was keeping him in solitary confinement. He could barely speak, and when he did, it was like he was “trying to speak through a wired jaw.” He twitches and is “struggling physically.”

“It’s obviously no secret the severe deficiencies that IDOC has in medical care for its inmates,” Betterly added. “They certainly don’t have the resources nor the inclination to treat a disease like Huntington’s, and it’s pretty evident just by looking at him just how much more rapidly he is deteriorating.”

Plus, Betterly addressed the context in which all this abuse and mistreatment of Chase has happened and how the state still wants citizens to believe they were “terrorists.”

“This is a vindictive prosecution,” Betterly declared. “They set up this grand scenario of how they have captured these real live terrorists in Chicago. They boasted and asserted lies for two year and then a jury cleared us of those charges—especially in this day and age, this is such a fear-mongering word, terrorism—a jury cleared us.”

“And then, after they cleared us, they still had the audacity to go up during sentencing and ask for near the max,” for a sentence. The state did not get that, so at this point, what the state is doing to Chase is “justification for the waste of resources, for the lies, for the two years of prosecution.”

In fact, during the hearing where Chase pled guilty, the courthouse cleared the room of supporters and reporters, and forced everyone to go through an additional security check. It effectively meant Chase had no one in the room showing solidarity with him when the state hit him with another year of time in prison.

There are previous letters in which Chase has extensively described brutal abuse from guards in prison, as well as incidents where he acted out. Individuals suffering from Huntington’s disease often engage in this kind of behavior, according to medical experts.

Chase’s supporters argue his loss of good time is “based on incident reports or ‘tickets’ Jay received while vigorously and persistently demanding treatment for the terminal illness [Huntington’s] and Hepatitis C.”

“It is a cruel irony that the Illinois Department of Corrections not only medically neglects its own prisoners but then punishes anyone for speaking out and demanding treatment. This is about neglect and indifference that is bigger than Jay’s specific case—a point he makes clearly in letters sent out from solitary, which brings us to the reason for this dispatch.”

His supporters put out a call to anyone sympathetic to contact the acting warden of the Pontiac facility and demand Chase be given access to proper medical care.

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Kevin Gosztola

Kevin Gosztola

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