Prosecutors: Trio mulled attacks on Obama campaign HQ, mayor’s home

May 19, 2012

From left, Brian Church, Jared Chase and Brent Vincent Betterly

A Cook County Circuit Court judge has set a $1.5 million bond for each of three men accused of possessing crude firebombs and considering attacks on President Barack Obama’s campaign headquarters and Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s home.

The three — listed by the county State’s Attorney’s Office as Jared Chase, 27, of Keene, New Hampshire; Brian Church, 22, of Fort Lauderdale, Florida; and Brent Betterly, 24, of Massachusetts — were charged late Friday with terrorism conspiracy, possession of explosives or incendiary devices and providing material support for terrorism.

The men appeared Saturday afternoon before Judge Edward S. Harmening, who ordered the bond. Prosecutors called the defendants “self-proclaimed anarchists” who traveled together from Florida to protest a two-day NATO summit set to begin in the city Sunday. The prosecutors said other planned or proposed targets of the trio included four city police stations and “certain downtown financial institutions.”

“The individuals that we have charged in this investigation are not peaceful protesters,” State’s Attorney Anita Alvarez said in a news conference after the hearing. “They are 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 defendants were among nine people arrested during a Wednesday night police raid of the South Side apartment of some leaders of Occupy Chicago, a group leading protests against the summit.

Attorneys with the National Lawyers Guild, which is defending the three men, say two other people who were arrested that night disappeared while in police custody. The attorneys said those two were police informants — a claim that officials did not dispute when questioned by reporters.

“It was a proactive investigation and we used every legal tool that we have available to us,” Alvarez said.

Michael Deutsch, one of the defense attorneys, says the three men came to Chicago to protest peacefully but the informants tried to provoke them to take part in illegal activity. Deutsch told the judge that the informants were responsible for the firebombs, known as Molotov cocktails.

“It is a setup and entrapment to the highest degree and it is sensationalism by the police and the state to discredit the protesters that have come here to nonviolently protest,” Deutsch said after the hearing. “This is just propaganda to create a climate of fear.”

Deutsch said at least one of the defendants was involved in a confrontation with Chicago police a few days before the South Side raid. That incident made headlines after recordings of it surfaced on YouTube.

Six other protesters arrested during the Wednesday raid were freed without charges Friday.

Alvarez said the defendants appear to be the first individuals charged under Illinois’s terrorism statute.