Three Men Arrested on Terror Charges in Chicago

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Three men loosely connected with the NATO protests have been arrested in Chicago for planning terror attacks on major police stations and businesses downtown, as well as President Obama's campaign headquarters and Mayor Rahm Emanuel's house. 

Brian Church, 20, Jared Chase, 24, and Brent Vincent Betterly, 24, have been charged with criminal acts relating to terrorism, conspiracy to commit terrorism, and possession of explosives. The three were arrested Wednesday evening after a raid on a Chicago apartment found them loading Molotov cocktails into the back of a truck. According to court documents, the four had travelled to Chicago from out of town ahead of the NATO protests. They spent the days leading up to the weekend training themselves and planning their course of attack. Their plans for the weekend included:

According to court documents, the men planned to first attack four Chicago police stations and destroy several squad cars with "destructive devices" in order to divert the department’s attention and resources.

While authorities were distracted by those strikes, the group intended to hit Obama’s national campaign headquarters in the Prudential Building, Emanuel’s home in Ravenswood and other downtown financial institutions, prosecutors said. The group had already done reconnaissance work on the Chicago Police Department headquarters in Bronzeville in preparation for the attack, law-enforcement officials said.

Law enforcement records say the police confiscated, "four completed Molotov cocktails... a mortar gun, swords, a hunting bow, throwing stars and knives with brass knuckle handles," plus protective equipment like, "pre-positioned shields, assault vests and gas masks to help hide their identity during the planned attacks," according to the Chicago Tribune. "These men were here to hurt people," said the state's attorney Anita Alvarez. “The individuals we charged are not peaceful protesters, they are domestic terrorists,” said Alvarez. 

But the lawyers in charge of defending the three men are alleging they're being set up by the Chicago police department. According to the New York Times report on the story, the lawyers from the National Lawyers Guild in charge of defending the three are going to argue for entrapment. They say a man and a woman who were either informants or undercover officers came up with the plans and provided the three men charged with the explosive equipment. 

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“From what we’ve learned, we believe it is a setup — entrapment to the highest degree — and it is sensationalism by the police and the state to discredit the protesters who have come here to nonviolently protest,” said Michael Deutsch, one of the defense lawyers on the case. The lawyers are also alleging cops didn't have a search warrant when they conducted the raid on the apartment. 

Law enforcement told the Tribune they had two sources inside the apartment (likely the man and the woman) that helped lead to the raid, and that they had recorded conversations from inside the apartment during the planning of the attack, but how they obtained the audio wasn't indicated in the court documents. In the recordings, one of the men is apparently herd saying, "The city doesn’t know what it is in for, and after NATO the city will never be the same."

The three men were pulled over by Chicago police a little over a week ago, and they recorded audio and some video of the event  and posted this (heavily edited) video to Youtube: (video courtesy of ABC News)

The mother of one of the men told the Chicago Tribune that she warned her son about posting the video to Youtube. "So now suddenly after he's being harassed by the police and posting it for everyone to see, now he's being charged with terror-related stuff? [...] That seems kind of fishy to me," she said. 

This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.