Lawyers for anti-NATO ‘terrorists’ vow to challenge law

May 23, 2012

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Lawyers for four anti-NATO protesters charged under a seldom-used Illinois terrorism law are vowing to challenge its constitutionality “from top to bottom.”

“The definition of terrorism is overbroad and vague,” said Michael Deutsch, an attorney of Brian Church, 20, of Fort Lauderdale, Fla. “Procedures that are in the statute need to be looked at and challenged. There are due-process issues and there are fundamental fairness issues.”

State lawmakers approved the measure more than a decade ago as the nation reeled from the September 11 attacks. But the law remains largely untested in court because prosecutors have not used it much.

“Just because the legislature passed the statute, it still has to comply with the U.S. and Illinois constitutions,” Deutsch said.

Cook County State’s Attorney Anita Alvarez’s office announced on Saturday that Church and two other protesters — Jared Chase, 27, of Keene, N.H, and Brent Betterly, 24, of Oakland Park, Fla. — had been charged with terrorism conspiracy, providing material support for terrorism, and possession of explosives or incendiary devices. Alvarez called the men “domestic terrorists.”

Her office on Tuesday declined to comment on the law’s constitutionality or explain why the three face charges at the local but not federal level, where terrorism measures have withstood court challenges.

Church, Chase and Betterly appeared at a court hearing Tuesday. Judge Adam D. Bourgeois Jr. granted a request by prosecutors to continue the case until June 12.

On Sunday, Alvarez’s office announced it was using the statute against a fourth protester, Sebastian Senakiewicz, 24, of Chicago. Senakiewicz, charged with falsely making a terrorist threat, and fellow protester Mark Neiweem, 28, of Chicago have a court hearing scheduled for Wednesday. Neiweem is charged with solicitation for explosives or incendiary devices.

All five defendants were arrested days before the two-day NATO summit, which ended Monday.