The men, known as the "NATO 3," had faced seven charges each,
including conspiracy to commit terrorism under a state
anti-terrorism law adopted after the September 11, 2001, attacks.
Brian Jacob Church, 22, and Brent Betterly, 25, both of Florida, and
Jared Chase, 29, of New Hampshire, face four to 30 years in prison
when they are sentenced on February 28.
Defense attorneys called the jury verdict a big victory for their
clients, who have been in prison since their arrests in May 2012,
days before the start of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization
"This was a politically motivated, overcharged case to make an
example to keep people off the streets during NATO," Sarah
Gelsomino, an attorney for Church, told Reuters. She said he was
relieved not to be branded a terrorist.
The three men looked solemn when the verdicts were read, and some of
their supporters in the courtroom wept.
Defense attorneys had described the three as drunken braggarts who
had been egged on by older undercover officers — "goofs" more
interested in getting high than being violent.
The prosecution said the three were intent on mayhem, and had made
Molotov cocktails with beer bottles and gasoline. Church had asked
in a recording, "Are you ready to see a police officer on fire?"
Jurors, who began their deliberations on Thursday evening, found the
men not guilty of the most severe charge — providing material
support to commit terrorism — along with conspiracy to commit
terrorism. The case marked the first time Illinois prosecutors had
invoked the terrorism conspiracy charge.
[to top of second column]
Cook County State's Attorney Anita Alvarez defended her decision to
bring the terrorism charges. She told reporters the arrests and
prosecution protected the public.
"Do we have to wait for a Chicago police officer to be set on fire?"
Alvarez asked reporters. "I don't think so."
Jurors declined to talk to reporters after the verdict.
The three were accused of planning attacks using fire bombs and
other weapons, targeting police stations, President Barack Obama's
re-election headquarters and Mayor Rahm Emanuel's house, along with
The summit attracted thousands of protesters, who were met by a
strong police presence. Chicago had spent millions of dollars for
security and other costs for the summit.
Chicago police, along with the FBI and the Secret Service, raided
the Chicago apartment the three men used as a safe house and
recovered pipe bomb instructions, an improvised mortar made from PVC
piping, a crossbow, knives, throwing stars, a map of Chicago and
four fire bombs.
(Reporting by Mary Wisniewski; writing by David Bailey;
Leslie Adler, Grant McCool and Ken Wills)
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