CHICAGO (CN) – Three men accused of planning to attack President Obama’s campaign headquarters with Molotov cocktails during the NATO summit here in May entered pleas of not guilty on Monday.
The so-called NATO 3, Brian Church, 20, Jared Chase, 28, and Brent Betterly, 24, are Floridians who came to Chicago to participate in Occupy Chicago protests at the May 20-21 NATO summit.
They were arrested a few days before the summit. The Chicago Tribune reported that they were also suspected of targeting Chicago police stations and Mayor Rahm Emmanuel’s house.
The indictment, which was withheld from the defense until June 21, charged the men with 11 counts, including conspiracy to commit terrorism. It is the first case brought under Illinois’ anti-terrorism law. The men are in solitary confinement on $1.5 million bail each.
On Monday, a courtroom packed with attorneys and supporters watched them enter pleas of not guilty before Cook County Judge Thaddeus Wilson.
Numerous Occupy Chicago members, who dressed in yellow to match the color of the defendants’ jumpsuits, said they worried that the men would not be able to see them because the public area of the courtroom was separated from the judge and attorneys by a glass wall.
But it was not one-way glass, and as the men entered they nodded to their supporters, who stood with raised right fists, until Judge Wilson ordered them to sit down.
Church’s attorney, Michael Deutsch, with the National Lawyer’s Guild, told the judge that a great amount of discovery will be needed.
“The state gave us discovery this morning and it was all from local law enforcement. I noticed no materials or information from any other government agencies. We will ask specifically for discovery from federal agencies,” Deutsch said.
“All the discovery that we received today appears to date no later than May 1 or 2. However, according to the indictment, the conspiracy allegedly began as early as Oct. 1, 2011.”
The defense sought a jury trial, then agreed to consult with prosecutors before requesting a trial date, given the need to conduct extensive discovery.
Prosecutors said little, remarking only that “discovery is not complete at this time.”
After the arraignment, Chase’s attorney, Thomas Durkin, also with the National Lawyers Guild, told reporters: “We didn’t learn anything today that surprised us. All we were given were routine discovery materials.
What we’re interested to learn is how the conspiracy started in October 2011. The idea that 13 days after the Occupy movement began in Zuccotti Park [New York], these guys started a conspiracy is preposterous. …
“We want to know, short of being part of Occupy, what did they do? Someone has information out there that we haven’t seen. We suspect it’s the federal government and other police departments [in Florida],” Durkin said.
Chase’s NLG attorney, Sarah Gelsomino, said: “It is clear that the undercover provocateurs that infiltrated Occupy Chicago are everywhere in the documents that we received today. We are eager to see more information on the extent of that infiltration.”
Deutsch added, “The prosecutors have sensationalized this case to discredit the Occupy and anti-NATO movement. We’re confident that they don’t have a terrorism case.”
Deutsch also claimed that the case is an attempt to “justify” Chicago’s huge bill for security during the NATO summit, which cost $15 million in overtime for Chicago police officers, according to the Tribune.
The attorneys also said they want to improve their clients’ conditions of detention and reduce their bonds.
“We need to know everything that was done to set these guys up. Yet while we deal with that, the guys are sitting in jail,” Deutsch said.
Durkin added, “We don’t want to see these people rot in jail. A $1.5 million bond is tantamount to no bond. I’m not optimistic, but we are going to talk to the state attorney’s office.”
When the hearing was over, one defendant flashed his supporters the peace sign as he left the courtroom. An Occupy Chicago supporter held up a sign: “Stop Arresting Protestors!” He was quickly brought before Judge Wilson and given a warning.
“Due to the nature of this case, I am prepared to tolerate things that I don’t normally tolerate. I don’t tolerate the fist in the air, but I tolerated it today. But I will not tolerate signs in my courtroom,” Wilson said.