3 charged in NATO domestic terror plot
02:27 - Source: CNN

Story highlights

Defense says 3 suspects are Occupy protesters, but police say they're "Black Bloc" anarchists

Three suspects allegedly stockpiled Molotov cocktails and planned attacks on police

Defense team calls the allegations "propaganda" and says police infiltrated a peaceful group

Judge sets bails for each of the three suspects at $1.5 million

Chicago CNN  — 

Three men charged with conspiring to commit domestic terrorism during the NATO summit were plotting to attack President Obama’s Chicago campaign headquarters, the Chicago mayor’s home and police stations, authorities said Saturday.

A police investigation that began early this month revealed that the three suspects are “self-proclaimed anarchists” and members of the “Black Bloc” group who traveled together from Florida to Chicago to commit violence as a protest against the NATO summit, authorities said in a statement.

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“Black Bloc” was the group blamed for violence that occurred in recent “Occupy” protests, such as in Rome last year when anarchists in ski masks torched cars and clashed with police and even other Occupy protesters.

The three men were planning to destroy police cars and attack four Chicago police district stations with destructive devices as a way to undermine police response to other planned actions at the NATO summit, according to a statement by Cook County State’s Attorney Anita Alvarez and Chicago Police Superintendent Garry McCarthy. Downtown Chicago financial institutions were also among the proposed targets, authorities said.

An Illinois judge set bail at $1.5 million for each of the three suspects: Brian Church, 22, of Fort Lauderdale, Florida; Jared Chase, 27, of Keene, New Hampshire; and Brent Betterly, 24, who told police he resides in Massachusetts, authorities said.

The three men were charged with material support for terrorism, conspiracy to commit terrorism, and possession of explosives or incendiary devices, authorities said. The three men were arrested Wednesday, and charges were announced Saturday, according to authorities.

“The individuals that we have charged in this investigation are not peaceful protesters. They are domestic terrorists who came to Chicago with an anarchist agenda to harm our police officers, intimidate our citizens and to attack their politically motivated targets,” said Alvarez.

According to authorities, Church said he wanted to recruit four groups of four co-conspirators – or 16 people – and that reconnaissance had already been done on the Chicago Police Department headquarters.

The three men also possessed or built improvised exposive or incendiary devices, a mortar gun, swords, a hunting bow, throwing stars, and knives with brass-knuckle handles, authorities said.

In court, prosecutors accused the three men of preparing for “violence and destruction,” such as stockpiling Molotov cocktails.

But a defense attorney called those accusations “propaganda” and contended authorities “infiltrated” a peaceful group and set up the three men.

The three defendants stood expressionless in court, each handcuffed behind the back.

A couple dozen of their supporters in the courtroom could be heard faintly scoffing at prosecutor Matthew Thrun as he called the defendants “self-proclaimed anarchists … making preparations for violence and destruction.”

Thrun said one of the defendants could be heard planning an attack and quoted him as saying, “this city does not know what it is in for, and it will never be the same.”

According to Thrun, the defendants bought gasoline at a BP station, cut bandanas for fuses, and had four empty beer bottles to be used as Molotov cocktails.

Thrun told the court that Church made a remark while assembling the Molotov cocktails: “Ever seen a cop on fire?”

Defense attorney Michael Deutsch accused authorities of “police misconduct,” saying undercover agents infiltrated a “peaceful” group.

“They even bought the makings of Molotov cocktails and gave it to them,” Deutsch said in court.

Outside of court, he called the case a set-up and an example of “entrapment to the highest degree.”

“It is sensationalism by the police and the state to discredit the protesters that have come here to nonviolently protest,” the attorney said.

The National Lawyers Guild, which says it’s representing the three defendants, said Chicago police arrested a total of nine activists Wednesday at a house in Chicago’s Bridgeport neighborhood and then released six of them.

The guild described the three defendants as “Occupy activists” and said police provided no evidence of criminal intent or wrongdoing.

“It’s outrageous for the city to apply terrorism charges when it’s the police who have been terrorizing activists and threatening their right to protest,” attorney Sarah Gelsomino with the lawyers guild and the People’s Law Office, said in a statement.

Judge Edward Harmening set the three defendants’ next court date for Tuesday.

On Sunday, NATO kicks off its two-day summit in Chicago, and the war in Afghanistan is expected to dominate discussions. Afghan President Hamid Karzai and Pakistani President Asif Zardari are both expected to attend the meeting.

A user’s guide to the NATO summit

NATO leaders are currently on a timetable to withdraw all of the alliance’s combat troops from Afghanistan in 2014.

CNN’s Paul Vercammen reported from Chicago and Michael Martinez from Los Angeles.