The NATO 3, the three men arrested in May 2012 and accused of terrorism, have been found not guilty of those charges. A jury in Chicago convicted the three of mob action, but acquitted them of the major terrorism charges they faced. The three were convicted of two counts of mob action and possession of an incendiary device, according to Chicago sources.
The NATO 3
Brian Church, Brent Betterly and Jared Chase were tagged with the label “NATO 3” by protesters and demonstrators who started showing up at the courthouse following their arrest. While they were portrayed by defense attorneys more as “goofballs” than hardened terrorists, the state insisted on pursuing a course that even the federal government had decided not to take.
Legal experts are calling the verdict a loss for the Cook County State’s Attorney’s office. The difference between the original terrorism charges and the final outcome – guilty of mob action – is great. If the three had been found guilty of the original terrorism charges, they faced decades in prison. Being found guilty of mob action, which is a low-level felony, means they might get just four years confinement. If the judge credits them with time served, almost two years, they could possibly get 24 months. As the case was brought in state, not federal, court, the three may also get early release based on good behavior.
Right now the possibilities are too varied to consider them all. A February 28 date is set for sentencing.
When the judge announced at 2:00 p.m. CST that the verdict was in and would be read in open court at 4:00 p.m., many observers breathed a sigh of relief. Conventional legal wisdom says that quick verdicts in complicated cases usually favor the defendant. If jurors were going to put the defendants away for a long stretch, they would have taken more time to cover every piece of evidence.
The defendants were accused by prosecutors of putting together four Molotov cocktails in preparation for the NATO summit to be held in May 2012. Trying to paint the three as terrorists in the vein of Osama bin Laden, prosecutors failed in their attempt to get the jury of twelve men and women to agree with the prosecution’s assessment.
While the Chicago Police Department and the prosecutors kept saying that the hatred the three had for police had crossed the line, defense attorneys said their clients were only boasting and never intended to carry out their threats.
Church’s attorney, Michael Deutsch, told the jury during closing arguments the efforts to paint the three as hardened insurrectionists only trivialized terrorism. He pointed out that when the average person hears the word “terrorist,” they think of al-Qaida.
Mob action is a term unfamiliar to many laymen. The Illinois Statutes say that mob action is the use of force or violence resulting in disturbing the peace, the assembly of two or more persons to commit an illegal act or the assembly of two or more persons for the purpose of doing violence to person or property.
In Illinois, mob action is a Class 4 felony for the first example and a Class C misdemeanor for the final two. The statutes continue, but this is the truncated version.
Mob action is usually punishable by community service for not more than 120 hours. The charge of terrorism, if the three had been found guilty, carried a maximum sentence of 40 years.
The NATO 3 trial has been closely observed by many experts in terrorism law. One source said that the verdict would set the direction other states may take if they pursue terrorism charges in the future.
By Jerry Nelson