‘NATO 3′ Indicted, But Prosecutors Keeping Details Secret
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UPDATED 06/12/12 – 5:01 p.m.
CHICAGO (CBS) — Three out-of-state men were indicted in court Tuesday morning, on accusations that they plotted to attack President Barack Obama’s campaign headquarters and Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s house during the NATO Summit, but prosecutors declined to share copies of the indictment with defense attorneys.
It’s not unheard of for prosecutors to withhold the details of an indictment from defense lawyers until a case is assigned to a trial judge, but even the judge at Tuesday’s hearing seemed surprised that in this case, prosecutors are playing things so close to the chest.
The move means, for the so-called “NATO 3,” their lawyers won’t get the details of the indictment until July 2, at the earliest.
As CBS 2’s Susanna Song reports, the so-called “NATO 3″ — Brian Church, 20, of Ft. Lauderdale, Fla.; Jared Chase, 24, of Keene, N.H.; and Brent Vincent Betterly, 24, of Oakland Park, Fla. — appeared shackled in court for a preliminary hearing, where prosecutors announced an indictment under the state’s anti-terrorism law.
Church’s attorney, Michael Deutsch, said shackling the defendants “branded them as terrorists” and creates a “prejudicial atmosphere” and denies their rights to a fair trial.
Defense attorney Thomas Durkin was more sarcastic in his comments on the decision to have their clients placed in shackles during the hearing.
“It all plays as part of the script. Of course they’re going to have to be heavily shackled. How else are you supposed to treat domestic terrorists?” he asked after the hearing. “You would you be nuts to let them walk around like regular murderers. I mean, they can’t treat them like murderers.”
Most defendants, including accused killers, regularly appear in bond court without handcuffs or shackles, although they are escorted by sheriff’s deputies.
As CBS 2′s Derrick Blakley reports, when defense attorneys asked for a copy of the indictment in court, prosecutors declined, prompting Deutsch to tell the judge, “I don’t understand.”
Judge Adam Burgeois Jr. said he didn’t understand either, “but that’s the way they’re doing it.”
“It seems a little strange, but that’s the way it is,” the judge added.
Numerous protesters had gathered outside of the Cook County Criminal Courthouse, and planned to be in court when the hearing began.
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The men were described last month by Cook County State’s Attorney Anita Alvarez as self-described anarchists, who came from Florida to protest the summit. All have been held on $1.5 million bond since they were charged on May 19.
The three suspects are charged with 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 NATO Summit last month. Prosecutors have said the attacks on police were intended to be a diversionary tactic to undermine the police response to other attacks.
The men had been staying with several others at an apartment at 32nd and Morgan streets in the Bridgeport neighborhood.
The case against them is the first prosecution in Illinois under a state terrorism law passed in the wake of the 9/11 terrorist attacks.
But Durkin insisted, “This is not a terrorism case. This is a ridiculous terrorism case charged under a ridiculous statute.”
Durkin said, if this was a genuine terrorism case, federal prosecutors would have handled it, but they passed.
The three defendants are each being held on $1.5 million bail. Durkin had quick answer when asked why he’s not asking to reduce it.
“We’re not stupid. Nobody’s gonna give these people bail, pure and simple,” he said. “They will once we get our hands on the evidence.”
Durkin said, without access to the evidence behind the indictment, he can’t argue that the bond is too high.
By the time he gets that evidence, the “NATO 3” will have been in jail for at least 60 days.
Under state law, prosecutors must bring the three to trail within 120 days of their arrest. That means they might not go on trial until mid-September.
Police have said the four men bought gasoline from a BP gas station at 31st and Halsted streets a few blocks from the apartment, then made at least four Molotov cocktails. Police claim to have seized four completed Molotov cocktails, along with other weapons that included throwing stars, and instructions on how to make pipe bombs.
“Those witnesses are saying what they found in the place was beer-making supplies; home brewing kits,” said Micah Philbrook of Occupy Chicago. “I was not at the Bridgeport apartment. I don’t know what they found. All I know is what witnesses said on both sides, and I think there are many aspects of this case and these charges that are extremely suspect, and so for that should be questioned.”
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 as they ask the men if they have anything “planned” for the NATO Summit weekend.
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?” an officer sais “Billy clubs to the f***ing skull.”
Defense attorneys say all three men eventually intend to plead not guilty at a later date.