Indictments slap NATO protesters with 11 counts

The defendants allegedly violated an Illinois terrorism law enacted after al Qaeda attacks.

June 20, 2012

Cook County grand jury indictments have slapped three out-of-town protesters with 11 felony counts and a Chicago protester with 4 felony counts for allegedly plotting or threatening terrorist attacks during last month’s NATO summit.
 
The counts against Brian Church, 20, of Fort Lauderdale, Fla., Brent Betterly, 24, of Oakland Park, Fla., and Jared Chase, 27, of Keene, N.H., include material support for terrorism, terrorism conspiracy, arson conspiracy, arson solicitation and attempted arson. The three men also face two counts of unlawful use of a weapon and four counts of possession of an incendiary device.
 
The Chicago resident, Sebastian Senakiewicz, 24, faces four counts of falsely making a terrorist threat.
 
Prosecutors in the highly publicized cases did not share the indictments with the defendants or news reporters but quietly filed them June 13 with the Clerk of the Circuit Court, where defense attorneys discovered them this week. The indictments provide no information about evidence.
 
“They’re playing hide the ball,” said Michael Deutsch, one of Church’s lawyers. “It’s part of their strategy to keep the information as long as possible away from the defense to prevent the defense from beginning to prepare.”
 
State’s Attorney Anita Alvarez’s office did not return messages about the cases Wednesday. In a news conference last month, she called Church, Betterly and Chase “domestic terrorists who came to Chicago with an anarchist agenda to harm our police officers, intimidate our citizens and to attack their politically motivated targets.”
 
The prosecutions mark the county’s first use of an Illinois terrorism statute enacted shortly after the al Qaeda attacks of September 11.
 
Defense attorneys call the cases sensationalized efforts to justify security spending for the NATO summit, a two-day Chicago gathering that ended May 21. They say the investigations relied on a pair of infiltrators who manufactured the alleged crimes.
 
Judges ordered Church, Betterly and Chase held on $1.5 million bonds and Senakiewicz on a $750,000 bond.
 
Attorneys for all four men said Wednesday they intend to enter not-guilty pleas.
 
A fifth protester, Mark Neiweem, 28, of Chicago, was charged with solicitation for explosives or incendiary devices and ordered held on a $500,000 bond.
 
Arraignments of the five are expected July 2.