Prosecutors keep terror indictments from defendants

Nearly four weeks since their arrests, three NATO protesters know next to nothing about the evidence, their attorneys say.

June 12, 2012

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Jailed almost four weeks on terrorism charges, three NATO protesters found out Tuesday a grand jury had indicted them. But prosecutors told a Cook County judge they were not ready to show the indictments.

Brent Betterly, 24, of Oakland Park, Fla.; Jared Chase, 27, of Keene, N.H; and Brian Church, 20, of Fort Lauderdale, Fla., stood quietly in shackles and yellow jail garb as their attorneys complained they knew next to nothing about the evidence.

Judge Adam D. Bourgeois Jr. called it “strange” for State’s Attorney Anita Alvarez’s office not to release the indictment.

After the brief hearing, the prosecutors declined to tell why and hurried away.

Chase’s attorney, Thomas Durkin, told reporters outside the courtroom the reason was clear. “This case stinks,” he said, calling the alleged crimes a creation of informants. “And we suspect the informants are police officers.”

Their purpose, Durkin said, was to justify security spending for the NATO summit, a two-day Chicago gathering that ended May 21.

Alvarez last month touted what she called a proactive investigation against “domestic terrorists.” Her office said the three made crude firebombs in a “safehouse” in Chicago’s Bridgeport neighborhood and plotted attacks on President Barack Obama’s campaign headquarters and Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s home. Prosecutors labeled the trio self-proclaimed anarchists who traveled from Florida to carry out violence during the NATO gathering.

Alvarez’s office deployed a seldom-used Illinois law passed after the al Qaeda attacks of September 11. All three men face charges of terrorism conspiracy, providing material support for terrorism, and possession of explosives or incendiary devices. The cases are among the nation’s first in which state authorities, instead of federal, are prosecuting alleged terrorists.

Their next hearing is July 2.

Two NATO protesters from Chicago, meanwhile, have hearings scheduled Wednesday. Sebastian Senakiewicz, 24, was charged with falsely making a terrorist threat. Mark Neiweem, 28, was charged with solicitation for explosives or incendiary devices.

All five defendants were arrested days before leaders of the military alliance arrived for the summit.