Prosecutors seeking 14-year prison terms for NATO 3 protesters
BY RUMMANA HUSSAIN Criminal Courts Reporter April 24, 2014 3:25PM
Brent Vincent Betterly (left), Jared Chase and Brian Church | Chicago Police photos
Updated: May 26, 2014 6:33AM
Cook County prosecutors are seeking a 14-year prison term for the three out-of-town activists who insist they never wanted to cause harm when they allegedly helped make crude Molotov cocktails under the watchful eye of a pair of undercover Chicago Police officers in days leading up to the NATO summit.
“A sentence of 14 years . . . is fair and just,” prosecutors wrote in a 48-page sentencing memorandum about the trio known as the NATO3.
Brian Church, 22, Jared Chase, 29, and Brent Betterly, 26, face a four- to 30-year prison sentence when they appear before Judge Thaddeus Wilson for sentencing on Friday for misdemeanor mob action and possession of an incendiary device to commit arson. The trio has been in jail for roughly two years and attorneys for the men argue they’ve served enough time behind bars.
The men were acquitted of more serious terrorism-related charges in February, prompting many to criticize State’s Attorney Anita Alvarez for overcharging the drunken, pothead protesters.
But the top prosecutor insisted the men were dangerous and had planned on setting Chicago Police officers on fire and damaging a downtown Chase bank, police stations, Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s home and President Barack Obama’s campaign headquarters.
The language in the memorandum reinforces Alvarez and her colleagues’ continued vigilance in the politically charged case.
“Defendants and those like them who may be tempted to commit a similar offense, must know that we are not ready to watch a cop car burn or see a police officer on fire,” Assistant State’s Attorneys Jack Blakey, Thomas Biesty, Matthew Thrun and Yvette Loizon wrote.
Church has since said despite his pot- and beer- “induced haze,” he was “never anywhere near even wanting to commit property damage, let alone blowing things up or burning things down.”
The memorandum also cites Church and Betterly's pre-sentencing letters to the judge. In one, Church insists that undercover Chicago Police officers Nadia Chikko and Mehmet Uygun proposed to make the crude firebombs on the back porch of a Bridgeport apartment on May 16, 2012.
“I immediately became uncomfortable with the situation and tried to distance myself from it subtly, even trying in small ways to stop it without being too obvious, for fear of judgment from the people I had surrounded myself with,” Church said in a letter submitted to the judge.
Betterly also wrote to the judge, denying he had violent intentions.
The young father said, “I vehemently oppose war of any kind and I cannot in good conscience stand by idly and complacently while the country in which I live, along with its allies, continues to wage wars of economic conquest against smaller, more economically unstable countries. To be accused of engaging in those same senseless acts of violence that I so vehemently oppose are antithetical to the sort of person I am.”
Church is “manipulative” and shrewd, and hardly the “naïve, man-child” his lawyers present him to be, prosecutors said in the memorandum.
Betterly is trying to cloak himself in the First Amendment and trying to come off as peaceful when it was clear he was handling the Molotovs in the audio recordings played in court.
And Chase, who has thrown feces and urine at correctional officers at Cook County Jail, is a “danger to society and a candidate for recidivism,” prosecutors said.