When NATO meets, protests and demonstrations follow. When the world’s leaders gather, it makes for a prime opportunity for activists to make their voices heard. Always passionate, the atmosphere in cities where monumental decisions are made, things can turn violent and ugly.
Sometimes, it is not easy to tell who the “bad guys” are without a scorecard. This is the case with the NATO 3 whose trial is set to begin this week following their arrest in May 2012 for terrorism. It should be an open-and-shut case, but when the whole story is told, things are not so clear.
During the weeks before the NATO summit in 2012, Chicago prosecutors claim that Brent Betterly predicted on Facebook that he may “catch some charges” while at the demonstration against the NATO gathering in Chicago
Betterly, from Oakland Park, Florida, did not get to take part in the huge demonstrations. He and his two friends, also from Florida, ran into trouble with the law.
Jared Chase, Brian Church and Betterly were arrested prior to the conference. Later, they were hit with an 11 count indictment. The indictment, which employed little known and little used terrorism charges, was for an alleged plan to attack the Chicago Police Department and damage President Obama’s campaign headquarters downtown. Supposedly, also on the list was Mayor Rahim Emanuel’s home in the Ravenswood neighborhood.
Things may not have escalated had the CPD not inserted two undercover police officers into the ranks of Occupy Chicago. Then again, maybe there wouldn’t have been any talk of crime in the first place.
The two undercover officers claimed to have watched the activists make Molotov cocktails in an apartment in the Bridgeport neighborhood of Chicago. The two, known as “Mo” and “Gloves” are expected to testify following the selection of a jury on January 16.
Prosecutors of the case at Leighton Criminal Courthouse, claim notes were recovered on how to build a pipe bomb. The officers, who had infiltrated the Occupy Chicago crowd previously, claimed to have been shown a large wooden shield with screws piercing the front in order to injure the police when confronted.
Also according to the two officers, the NATO 3 provided tips on how best to create the explosives. Church’s lawyer, Sarah Gelsomino, argues that there would have been no Molotov cocktails without the “instigation” of the undercover officer. The officer, states Gelsominio, accompanied Chase to the gas station and actually bought the gasoline on May 16, 2012 as shown in video from the convenience store’s cameras.
While the NATO 3’s attorneys argue that the undercover officers were in control, prosecutors counter that the three men did not need any encouragment and pointed out that Betterly’s Facebook conversation with a friend was revealing: “Riot. U can’t apologize after throwing a Molotov cocktail.”
High powered prosecutors are likely to portray the three, nicknamed the “NATO 3” as violent demonstrators and schemers. Defense lawyers will try to show that Chase, 29, Church, 22 and Betterly, 25, were entrapped by CPD and misleadingly described as “extremely dangerous.”
Chase’s lawyers, Thomas Durkin and Joshua Herman, told the court in preliminary filings that it is not difficult to see the political advantages that accrue to the “political elites” under the screen of security.
Gelsomino, pointed out that the public was never in any danger and that CPD’s initial claims that the men wanted to firebomb the properties of the president and mayor were overstated.
The NATO 3 have been held in solitary confinement, called “protective custody” by the CPD, since May 2012 and held on $1.5 million bail each. Opening statements in the men’s trial before Judge Thaddeus Wilson are scheduled for Jan. 16. NATO 3 attorney Gelsomino told the Sun-Times, “If this is what terrorism is, then we’re all safe. If anything, this is a vandalism case, at best.”
By Jerry Nelson