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Three men known as the ‘NATO 3′ charged with conspiracy to commit terrorism

NATO 3Three men are accused of plotting to use firebombs during last year’s NATO Summit in Chicago and being charged with conspiracy to commit terrorism

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NATO 3

The so-called ‘NATO 3’ were convicted today of mob action, but not of terrorism.  The verdict triggered an explosive war of words between the defense lawyers and prosecutors

This case raises a lot of questions, about how we define terrorism and whether or not the accused were encouraged by undercover police. They’re convicted of possessing an incendiary device to commit arson- which on its own is serious– a super-class one felony, carrying up to 30 years in prison.

Cook County State’s Attorney Anita Alvarez spoke after the verdict, “Have we forgotten about Boston here? Have we forgotten about homemade bombs in backpacks?”

Accused by the NATO 3’s defense team of overcharging this case, Alvarez lashed-out, defending her department’s handling of the first case the county has ever brought under the state’s terrorism law.

“And you know what? I would bring these charges again because you know what we did? We saved people from being hurt,” she said.

The charges stem from the May 2012 NATO Summit, the question facing the jury—did these three men; 25-year-old Brent Betterly, 29-year-old Jared Chase and 22-year-old Brian Church, come to the city to throw firebombs and create anarchy—or were they simple-minded protesters who simply ran off at the mouth in front of undercover police?

In the end, they were found guilty not of terrorism but of mob action and possessing an incendiary device to commit arson.

The defense trumpets that as a huge victory. Proof, they say, that this entire case was designed to make Mayor Emanuel look good for spending millions securing the NATO Summit.

Defense Lawyer Tom Durkin said “This was a political prosecution– don’t kid yourself. It was a political prosecution in every sense of the word.”

Anita Alvarez said “Let me ask you- what do you think they were going to do with these devices? And I think it is atrocious that the defense was making fun of Molotov cocktails.”

After the verdict, reporters gathered in a room set aside for interviews with jurors. Not one of the seven men and five women wanted to talk to the media about their verdict.

The NATO 3 will be sentenced February 28th.

NATO 3

The so-called NATO 3 were convicted Friday of two counts of mob action, but not the more serious terrorism charges against them.

Jurors deliberated nearly eight hours before reaching the verdict for Brent Betterly, 25, Jared Chase, 29, and Brian Church, 22.

In addition, all three men were found guilty of possession of an incendiary device for arson.

The central question jurors had to decide was this: What did the NATO 3 intend to do when they came to Chicago to participate in protest?

Cook County prosecutors held up knives and other weapons, Thursday night, allegedly seized from the men. They accused the three activists of conspiring to launch an attack to spark a city-wide riot.

Renting an apartment in Bridgeport well before the start of the Summit, undercover police accuse the three of conspiring to launch a firebomb attack on police and Obama campaign headquarters – allegedly constructing Molotov cocktails, before Chicago police moved in to arrest them.

But, defense lawyers paint a different picture. Though passionate about their beliefs and intent on participating in protest, lawyers say the NATO 3 are far from professional terrorist.

This is the first terrorism case brought by Cook County prosecutors.

This is a developing story. Check back for details

The NATO 3 case has gone to the jury, it has been a full day of arguments before the court and we could be a day if not hours away from a decision.

Defense Attorney Tom Durkin said “I think there is an overuse of fear in this country and I think it’s a dangerous statute to throw around and should be reserved for the most serious people.”

Durkin does not think these three men– known as the NATO 3, qualify as the most serious people. He doesn’t think Brian Church, Brent Betterly and Jared Chase are terrorists– despite the fact that they are charged with making Molotov cocktails and threatening criminal acts but never acting on them.

In court Durkin, who represents chase called the trio: “the gang that couldn’t shoot straight.”

A bunch of talkers described the lawyer for church with delusions of protesting grandeur.

But the prosecution told the jury he’s not buying the defense argument claiming it’s just young men and their hi-jinx.

Asst. Cook Co. State’s Attorney John Blakey said their goal was to spark a city-wide riot:

“Did these defendants come up to NATO to intimidate Chicago with acts of violence? Yes, they did.”

Intimidation is key in this cases. lawyers for Church, Betterly and chase say the serious charges have nothing to do with public safety and that scares them a lot.

Attorneys delivered their closing arguments today in the NATO 3 trial.

In his closing argument, a Cook County prosecutor said the three defendants came to Chicago’s NATO Summit in 2012 to carry out acts of terrorism.

“Were they bumbling fools or cold and calculating terrorists? That’s the question you have to answer,” said Assistant State’s Attorney Thomas Biesty, who emphasized the evidence contained on undercover recordings “wasn’t just talk.”

Biesty spoke for about 90 minutes. He said the three defendants – Brian Church, Jared Chase and Brent Betterly –were experts at constructing Molotov cocktails and took “acts of furtherance” to carry out their attack plan, including driving past one target—President Barack Obama’s downtown campaign headquarters –and buying gasoline for the firebombs.

READ FULL STORY ON THE CHICAGOTRIBUNE.COM

The Chicago Tribune contributed to this report

Prosecutors claim they’re terrorists, while defense attorneys say they’re just big mouths who are often drunk.

The three men charged with plotting acts of terrorism during the NATO Summit in Chicago went on trial Tuesday.

Jared Chase, 29, Brent Betterly, 25, and Brian Church, 25, are accused of planning to destroy police vehicles, and attack four police district stations with explosive devices.

They also allegedly targeted President Barack Obama’s campaign headquarters, Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s home, and some financial institutions.

Prosecutors said one of the men asked if his friends were ready to see a police officer on fire as he made Molotov cocktails.

Attorneys for three men accused of plotting to use firebombs during last year’s NATO Summit in Chicago are asking the charges be dismissed.

Jared Chase, Brent Betterly and Brian Church are accused of trying to make Molotov cocktails with the intent to use them during the protests at last May’s summit.

In court Friday morning, their lawyers asked the judge to dismiss the terrorism counts against the suspects.

The attorneys claim the Illinois law, enacted after 9-11, is unconstitutional.

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