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article image'NATO 3' in court on terrorism charges, entrapment is alleged

By Ralph Lopez     Jan 20, 2014 in World
Three protesters stopped by Chicago police before a 2012 NATO Summit protest, who posted video of what appears to be clear harassment, are in court on terrorism charges after nearly two years in police custody.
The men, Brian Church, of Ft. Lauderdale, Fla.; Jared Chase, of Keene, New Hampshire; and Brent Betterly, of Oakland Park, Fla., are victims of an entrapment according to defense attorneys. The men were between 20 and 24 at the time of the arrests.
The young mens' odyssey began when they were stopped for making a turn on "private property." Chicago police (featured video above) began asking if they were somehow involved in the upcoming protest against the NATO occupation in Afghanistan, and other issues. The men told the police that they were, as police embarked upon a search of their vehicle. The search was captured on one of the men's camcorder, then posted on Youtube.
In it the young men can be heard ribbing police as they search the trunk, saying "if you find any money in this car let me know, we're all pretty broke," and mocking "you're so funny." The police then joke about the 1968 National Democratic Convention, when police attacked anti-Vietnam War protesters, saying:
Police 1: "What did they say in '68?"
Police 2: "Billyclub to the f-ing skull."
One of the officers at one point says "Ok now I'll beat your white ass."
As the encounter ends, the police can be heard saying: "We'll come looking for you. Each and every one of you."
Less than a month later, all three were arrested on charges of conspiring to commit terrorist acts, with evidence obtained by police infiltrators who went under the names "Mo" and "Gloves." Police charge that the three were planning to attack Barack Obama's campaign headquarters, Mayor Rahm Emanuel's house, four different police stations, police cars, and other financial and institutional targets. The men, a court filing "Factual Proffer" states, were set to do battle with police with "swords, a hunting bow, throwing stars, and knives with brass-knuckle handles." The defense has accused the police of planting the weapons before the raid in which they were found.
In the indictment, however, no mention is made of the broad assortment of weapons, with the grand jury returning only a bare-bones indictment charging that they "possessed and manufactured any incendiary device." (Read the indictment.)
Occupy Chicago activists have alleged that "Mo" and "Gloves" have a history of attempting to provoke protesters to acts of violence. In a Truthout.org report on the NATO 3 by Matt Stroud and Steve Horn, Occupy Chicago mental health clinic activist Matt Ginsberg-Jaeckle recalls that he was arrested along with "Mo" in April of 2012, after they and other protesters had barricaded themselves in a clinic scheduled for closure. Ginsberg-Jaeckle says that while in jail, "Mo" approached him and said: "What's our next step? We need to step this up a notch."
Defense attorney Sarah Gelsomino of the National Lawyers Guild claimed "a pattern of harassment against the men" after they were arrested in May of 2012. Gelsomino said:
“They...posted video online in an attempt to expose the police misconduct. Each of those three are now being charged with these crimes.”
Defense alleges that the prosecution's case is built on:
"idle chatter, laced with bravado and abetted, encouraged and egged on by the undercover police agents."
The Chicago Tribune reports that any incendiary devices were in the possession of the undercover police at all times. One defendant, Jared Chase, was captured on video accompanied by "Mo" as they bought gasoline at a BP station across the street from the apartment where the men and other protesters were staying, referred to by police as a "safe house."
Gelsomino, a defense attorney for Chase, has said her client viewed the undercover officer as a father figure.
 Mo  and  Gloves
"Mo" and "Gloves"
Occupy Chicago
The judge in the case, judge Thaddeus Wilson, this month heard defense motions asking that the prosecution refrain from its practice of repeatedly referring to the defendants' political views, and describing them as "anarchists" and "self-proclaimed anarchists" in front of the jury. The motion was denied, according to AnarchistNews.org.
Another motion asked the judge to suppress the prosecution's use of one of the defendant's, Brent Betterly's, Facebook posts, since his posts continued after he was in police custody without access to a computer, indicating that others were posting in his name. That motion was also denied.
The lead attorney for the trio, National Lawyers Guild attorney Micheal Deutsch, denied they were anarchists after the arrests.
“They are not anarchists. They are not members of the Black Bloc organization. … This is a way to stir up prejudice against the people who are exercising their First Amendment rights.”
Chicago police chief Gerry McCarthy told local Fox News that the use of undercover officers was a standard and accepted practice. According to the National Lawyers Guild of Chicago, the two undercover officers "Mo" and "Gloves" were also identified in protests against shutting down a Chicago mental health clinic.
Protesters Recall "Mo" and "Gloves"
Protesters against wars and economic summit meetings, at which transnational economic policies are formalized and discussed, have long complained that undercover police are sent into their midst to disrupt and act as provocateurs, pushing for violence within otherwise peaceful protests. During the G-20 conference in Pittsburgh, video was captured of three alleged police officers dressed and posing as anarchist "Black Bloc" members, whom police contend approve of property damage of banks and other symbolic institutions.
2009 G-20 Conference, Pittsburgh, Undercover Police "Made"
Friends and supporters of the NATO 3, as they have come to be known, characterize them as anything but the violent figures the prosecutors portray. Bill Vassilakis, the landlord of the apartment where he was letting the defendants and other NATO anti-war protesters stay, said Betterly was trained as an industrial electrician who had helped with wiring at The Plant, a Chicago experiment in sustainable food production within city limits. Vassilakis told CBC News:
"All I can say about that is, if you knew Brent, you would find that to be the most ridiculous thing you've ever heard. He was the most stand-up guy that was staying with me. He and the other guys had done nothing but volunteer their time and energy."
After Brian Church completed a course in emergency medicine at Broward College in Florida, he headed to the Chicago protests to help with what has become a standard feature of large, organized protests — the first aid tents — in the hope that it would help him achieve his dream of becoming an EMT. His mother told the Florida Sun Sentinal:
"He was very proud of the fact that he was helping set up the first-aid tents,"
Church's mother, a physician's assistant, said:
"The whole terrorism thing just blows my mind...This is a kid who made sandwiches to hand out to the homeless."
The proceedings in the case have already exhibited quirks which have left legal observers asking questions. During their bond hearing, the three were brought into the courtroom wearing orange jumpsuits and shackles, even though CBS News noted:
"Most defendants, including accused killers, regularly appear in bond court without handcuffs or shackles, although they are escorted by sheriff’s deputies."
And when defense attorneys asked for a copy of the indictment in court, prosecutors declined, prompting Deutsch to tell the Judge, “I don’t understand.”
CBS 2′s Derrick Blakley reported that Judge Adam Burgeois Jr. said he didn’t understand either, “but that’s the way they’re doing it.”
The men now face 85 years in prison each if convicted of the most serious charges.
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