Steep bond for NATO protesters held on bomb charges

May 20, 2012

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A Cook County judge set steep bonds Sunday afternoon for two more activists accused of planning violence during the NATO summit.

Criminal Court Judge Israel Desierto set a $750,000 bond for Sebastian Senakiewicz, 24, a Chicago resident charged with falsely making a terrorist threat. Desierto set a $500,000 bond for Mark Neiweem, 28, a Chicago resident charged with solicitation for explosives or incendiary devices.

“These bonds are extremely high and punitively so, as a result of the sensationalized and politicized allegations that the state’s attorneys raised today,” said Sarah Gelsomino, an attorney representing the defendants.

Jack Blakey, head of special prosecutions for the Cook County State’s Attorney’s Office, declined to comment about the bond hearing after reading a prepared statement about the charges.

Blakey said Senakiewicz identified himself as an anarchist and part of the Black Bloc movement and claimed several times he had bombs. At one point, Senakiewicz said he had “two homemade explosives that could blow up half of an overpass for a train and that he was holding off on using them until NATO,” Blakey said. Prosecutors said a search of Senakiewicz’s home did not turn up any explosives.

Blakey said Neiweem told an associate about a store where materials to make a pipe bomb could be purchased, then “pressed a piece of paper into the palm of the associate’s hand and stated that, if the associate obtained the items and brought them to his house, then they could create a bomb.”

On Saturday, Cook County Judge Edward S. Harmening set $1.5 million bonds for three other activists, all charged with terrorism conspiracy, possession of explosives or incendiary devices and providing material support for terrorism. Authorities accused the trio of possessing Molotov cocktails and planning or proposing attacks on President Barack Obama’s campaign headquarters, Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s home, four police stations and financial institutions downtown.

Prosecutors called those three defendants “self-proclaimed anarchists” and listed them as Jared Chase, 27, of Keene, New Hampshire; Brian Church, 22, of Fort Lauderdale, Florida; and Brent Betterly, 24, of Massachusetts.

Chase, Church and Betterly were among nine people arrested during a Wednesday night police raid in the Bridgeport neighborhood. The raid targeted the apartment of some leaders of Occupy Chicago, a group leading protests against the summit. Senakiewicz and Neiweem were arrested Thursday at other locations.

Prosecutors said all five cases stem from the same investigation.

Defense attorneys said authorities built all the cases using an informant duo — a man who went by the name “Mo” and a woman who went by “Gloves.” The attorneys said that the duo tried to manufacture crimes.

Defense attorneys also claim that authorities targeted the activists for their political beliefs.

Court filings by prosecutors state that most of the defendants self-identify as anarchists. State’s Attorney Anita Alvarez, questioned Saturday about the relevance to the criminal case, answered that “some of the techniques that they were exhibiting all go in line with their beliefs.”

Another possible issue is the length of time authorities held the defendants before allowing them to go before a judge. The bond hearing for Senakiewicz and Neiweem did not occur until almost three full days after their arrests. Their attorneys say neither defendant had an earlier opportunity to see a judge.

Leonard Cavise, a DePaul University law professor, points to a 1991 judicial ruling. “The United States Supreme Court has said that the police have an obligation to get the defendant in front of a judge as soon as practically possible but not longer than 48 hours,” Cavise says. “The reason we have this 48-hour rule is because we want to get the person away from the police as soon as possible before they coerce a confession out of them.”

Violating that rule, Cavise adds, could lead a judge to throw out any confession from trial.

Sally Daly, a spokeswoman for the state’s attorney, insisted that Senakiewicz and Neiweem were held according to the law.