NATO 3 found guilty of mob action, arson charges

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February 7, 2014 8:29:25 PM PST
Three protesters charged with terrorism following the 2012 NATO Summit in Chicago have been convicted of a lesser count of mob action and on arson-related charges.

Brian Church, Jared Chase and Brent Vincent Betterly were all found not guilty on the more serious terrorism charges. The arson-related charges, considered a Super Class 1 felony, alone carry four to 30 years in prison. The jury deliberated seven hours, 46 minutes.

"Today's verdict will hold these individuals accountable for their actions, even if not on every count," said Chicago Police Supt. Garry McCarthy. "The undercover officers who worked this case put themselves directly in harm's way."

Church, 22, of Fort Lauderdale, Fla.; Chase, 29, of Keene, N.H.; and Betterly, 25, of Oakland Park, Fla., had pleaded not guilty to the charges that included material support for terrorism and conspiracy to commit terrorism.

The question of when a planned protest becomes conspiracy to commit terrorism was the focus of much of the trial, which was seen as a major test whether states should more often take the lead in trying terrorist suspects. Nearly all terrorism cases are filed in federal court. Many states passed terrorism laws after 9/11 in what were seen as largely symbolic gestures.

Lead prosecutor Jack Blakey in his closing gave the three menacing nicknames according to their alleged crimes. He called Betterly "Professor Molotov," Chase "Captain Napalm," and Church "Mr. Cop on Fire."

Defense attorneys say undercover officers posing as activists egged on the three, who were frequently too drunk or too high on marijuana to take any meaningful steps planning attacks.

The three men who came to Chicago to protest the 2012 NATO Summit veered from civil disobedience into terrorism when they hatched a plan to throw Molotov cocktails at President Barack Obama's campaign headquarters, police stations and other sites, a prosecutor said Thursday, wrapping up the state's case against them.

They came to Chicago several weeks before NATO - took part in marches and protests - stayed with others in a Bridgeport apartment, met in a nearby park with two other would-be protesters who in reality were undercover cops. They talked about Molotov cocktails, bombings and how after NATO, "this city will never be the same"

Prosecutors say it was serious talk - captured on undercover recordings - of starting riots, attacking police stations.

"They enjoyed talking about setting policemen on fire," said prosecutor Tom Biesty. ''They came here to seize the world stage, they are terrorists and they are guilty.''

"Were they bumbling fools or were they cold, calculating terrorists? ... That is the question you have to answer," he told jurors. He added that the evidence showed, "these men are terrorists."

Attorney Michael Deutsch said prosecutors brought the ominous-sounding terrorism charges to make a splash in the media, and that they "trivialized" actual terrorism and "disrespected" terrorism victims by doing so.

Deutsch calls his client a 'wayward, confused young man who wanted to appear macho' even fancied himself as a ninja warrior.

While he talked of riots, Church also said on tape, 'I don't want to do anything stupid,' and 'I'll stay peaceful until they (police) hurt someone.'

Another of the defense attorneys asked the jury, "Is this what the war on terror has come to?'

The Associated Press contributed to this report.


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