Illinois ventures into unchartered waters by using own terror laws

June 12, 2012

Michael Tarm and Associated Press Staff

Three suspects appear in a Chicago court Tuesday to face terrorism-related charges for allegedly plotting to hurl Molotov cocktails at President Barack Obama's campaign headquarters.

But it'll be state, not federal attorneys handling their case.

Even as lawmakers in Illinois and at least 35 other states adopted ant-terrorism laws after Sept. 11, 2001, they agreed the anti-terrorist fight was best left to legions of U.S. government lawyers.

So the decision by Cook County State's Attorney office to test Illinois' law for the first time against activists arrested before last month's NATO summit surprised many experts.

Former federal prosecutor Phil Turner says Illinois state prosecutors are entering "unchartered waters." He says their lack of manpower and expertise compared with their federal counterparts raises doubts about their ability to secure terrorist convictions.

Defense attorneys say all three intend to enter not-guilty pleas. It's unclear if they'll do that Tuesday.

All three suspects have remained in jail since their arrests days before May's NATO summit.