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NATO 3 protesters plead not guilty to plotting attack on Obama HQ

From left: Jared Chase 24 Keene N.H.; Brent Vincent Betterly 24 OaklPark Fla.; Brian Church 27 Ft. Lauderdale Fla. are

From left: Jared Chase, 24, of Keene, N.H.; Brent Vincent Betterly, 24, of Oakland Park, Fla.; and Brian Church, 27, of Ft. Lauderdale, Fla. are accused of planning to attack President Barack Obama’s campaign headquarters and Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s home.

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Updated: August 4, 2012 6:19AM

With supporters cheering them on inside a Cook County courtroom at one point, three protesters pleaded not guilty Monday to charges of plotting to attack President Barack Obama’s campaign headquarters and Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s home with Molotov cocktails during May’s NATO summit in Chicago.

Their ankles shackled and donning yellow jail garb, Brian Church of Fort Lauderdale, Fla., Jared Chase of Keene, N.H., and Brent Vincent Betterly of Oakland, Fla., stood quietly as their attorneys entered the plea before Judge Thaddeus Wilson.

The trio was arrested in a South Side residence days before the NATO Summit began and have been behind bars ever since.

During the hearing, prosecutors confirmed that their evidence includes secretly recorded conversations, though they offered no detail.

The charges include four never-used-before state anti-terrorism statutes, passed in the wake of the 9/11 attacks. The men, all in their 20s, also face charges of attempted arson, solicitation to commit arson, conspiracy to commit arson and two counts of unlawful use of a weapon. If convicted, each could spend decades in prison.

During the morning hearing, prosecutors also turned over the first substantial batch of evidence to defense lawyers — 372 documents. Attorneys for the defendants told reporters later the evidence they received Monday did not appear to include any recordings or transcripts.

One of Church’s attorneys, Sarah Gelsomino, said she had not had a chance to go through all the papers but that much of the evidence seems to rely heavily on two undercover police officers, known as “Gloves” and “Mo,” who befriended the defendants in the weeks before the summit.

“What is clear is that [the undercover police] . . . are everywhere here,” she said, referring to the evidence. Attorneys for the suspects have said the charges are trumped up and accused law enforcement officials of entrapping their clients by using undercover officers who posed as activists.

Chase’s lawyer, Thomas Durkin, told reporters the documents only appeared to include evidence from just before the protesters’ arrests in May. He said there appeared to be no evidence backing up the allegation that the conspiracy to stage attacks in Chicago began last October. Prosecutors did not speak to reporters after Monday’s hearing.

As the suspects were led in to the courtroom, about 20 supporters stood and raised their right arms with their fists clenched. Toward the end of the hearing the group even cheered the men — drawing a smile and nod from Betterly.

A deputy detained 45-year-old activist Tom Rainey, of Chicago, who held up a placard that read, “I support Brian . . . Jarred . . . Brent,” and brought him before the visibly agitated judge.

Stopping short of jailing him for contempt, the judge angrily ordered, “Do not bring a sign in here again.”

The judge set a tentative trial date of July 22, 2013.

Two other anti-NATO protesters charged in bomb schemes — Mark Neiweem and Sebastian Senakiewicz — also pleaded not guilty to charges.

Contributing: AP and Sun-Times reporter Matt McKinney

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