Attorneys: ‘NATO 3’ Defendants Arrested To Justify Summit Security
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UPDATED 05/22/12 – 4:27 p.m.
CHICAGO (CBS) — Defense attorneys for the three men accused of making firebombs to attack police and other high-profile targets during the NATO Summit claimed police and prosecutors fabricated the charges to justify the intense security measures put in place for the summit.
CBS 2’s Dorothy Tucker reports, after a hearing on state terrorism charges on Tuesday, lawyers for defendants Brian Church, Jared Chase, and Brent Betterly said the three men are victims of trumped-up charges, meant to justify the city spending millions on NATO security.
The suspects popularly known as the “NATO 3” have been accused of plotting to make Molotov cocktails to attack police stations, Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s house, President Barack Obama’s campaign headquarters, and downtown financial institutions during the summit. Prosecutors have said the attacks on police were intended to be a diversionary tactic to undermine the police response to other attacks.
“There’s something fishy,” said defense attorney Michael Deutsch, accusing the government of hiding evidence.
Another lawyer, Tom Durkin, suggested it might have been a set up.
“We bought the whole idea that there was going to be trouble here,” Durkin said. “Are they scapegoats or not? That’s a legitimate question.”
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Authorities are using an Illinois state anti-terrorism law to prosecute the case against the three men. The law went on the books in Illinois just after the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, but this case was the first time it has been used.
“We haven’t seen a search warrant, or the affidavit for the search warrant,” Deutsch said. “Usually, that search warrant is right in the file. It’s not in the file, we haven’t been able to get it from the state’s attorney. What are they hiding? Why aren’t they giving us information?”
Those were just some of the many questions attorneys for the so-called “NATO 3” said they were hoping Cook County prosecutors would answer in court on Tuesday.
A spokesperson for the Cook County State’s Attorney’s office said prosecutors are following standard procedure for a criminal case.
Church, Chase and Betterly were charged with conspiracy to commit terrorism last week, after police raided a Bridgeport apartment building and found materials to make Molotov cocktails.
Prosecutors said the men had come to town together from Florida to protest the NATO Summit. They were staying at an apartment at 32nd and Morgan streets in the Bridgeport neighborhood.
Authorities used informants to gather intelligence on the men.
Police said the men bought gasoline from a BP station at 31st and Halsted streets a few blocks from the apartment, then made at least four Molotov cocktails.
Authorities said four completed Molotov cocktails were seized by police along with other weapons and instructions on how to make pipe bombs.
Defense lawyers said, ever since the suspects were arrested, they’ve been in isolation at the Cook County Jail, each defendant kept alone in a “white cell.”
“They’re being kept in a hospital ‘white cell,’ totally in isolation from everyone else in the jail, and each other, 24 hours a day,” Deutsch said. “They have nothing to read, they have no writing material. It’s a kind of a sensory deprivation situation for them, and this is a way to break someone’s spirit, and break their ability to cooperate with their attorneys.”
The Cook County Sheriff’s Office said it is common practice in high-profile cases for jail inmates to be placed in observation cells for 48 hours at the jail’s hospital, to make sure they are not going to harm themselves or others.
The three men will be removed from isolation Tuesday night and placed in the general population.
Ever since the arrests, defense lawyers have accused police and prosecutors of drumming up the terrorism charges against the men, claiming they were set up by undercover police officers.
But on Tuesday, they went a step further, insinuating the men were targeted was to justify the millions of dollars spent on security for the NATO Summit.
“Are they scapegoats or not? That’s a legitimate question,” defense attorney Thomas Durkin said. “I don’t know how the mayor gets carte blanche to just turn this city into a police state over the weekend, because we’re fearful. That’s what happened.”
Defense attorneys also suggested their clients were targeted because police were angry after the men posted a YouTube video, purportedly showing Chicago police officers pulling the men over two weeks ago and verbally abusing them.
But the edited video does not show any of the officers’ faces while anyone is speaking in the video. It only shows captions of what the voices in the video are saying.
“Do you guys have something planned for next week?” one officer asks the group, an apparent reference to the protests planned during the NATO summit.
One of the men in the car replies, “No, not really.”
“Nothing on the horizon?” one officer asks.
Another protester asks why the police are pulling people over “for no reason.” The group said it was just turning their car around.
The officer responds that the group was turning around in private property.
At that point, another officer started talking about the 1968 Democratic National Convention, where protesters and rioters clashed violently on the street.
“’68, do you know about ’68?”
“Billy clubs to the ——– skull,” one officer says.
At another point, one of the passengers tells the officer that they will “see them at NATO.”
“Can’t wait,” one officer responds. “We’ll come looking for you, each and every one of you.”
The Occupy Chicago group claims that was harassment.
The three defendants were arrested after two police informants turned them in.
On Tuesday, protesters released photos of the couple they knew as “Moe” and “Gloves.” CBS 2 has chosen not to show those men’s faces, but protesters said they were deeply involved in organizing protest marches, and then disappeared after the arrests.
“It’s not like people are going to go out and do anything. It’s more like, don’t talk to these people, don’t hang out with these people, if you see them around, just walk the other way,” said Zoe Sigman, an Occupy activist who has said she lives in the building police raided to make the arrests.
CBS 2 has decided not to show those photos, because the identities of the people shown could not be confirmed.