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NATO activist was drunk when discussing terrorism: lawyer

Brent Vincent Betterly (left) Jared Chase Brian Church  |  Chicago Police photos

Brent Vincent Betterly (left), Jared Chase and Brian Church | Chicago Police photos

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Updated: February 4, 2014 11:57PM



Lawyers for two of the so-called NATO 3 defendants argued in court Tuesday that the only thing their clients proved skilled at destroying were cases of beer — not the 2012 NATO Summit, which prosecutors contend the three out-of-towners were intent on disrupting.

Their portrayal of Jared Chase and Brian Church as two wild-talking yet ultimately unserious radicals came during what was most likely the final day of testimony in the terrorism trial of Chase, Church and Brent Betterly.

Lawyers from both sides are expected to go over jury instructions on Wednesday and deliver closing arguments on Thursday.

The men’s attorneys Tuesday contrasted their clients with the bomb-throwing, anarchist-chic image presented by prosecutors, who allege the three men drove to Chicago from Florida with the intention of throwing Molotov cocktails at police and bombing President Barack Obama’s then-campaign headquarters in May of 2012.

Church was “so high he couldn’t come up with a coherent plan,” defense attorney Sarah Gelsomino said while cross-examining Chicago Police officer Mehmet Uygun, who along with his partner, Nadia Chikko, worked undercover to arrest the men.

“You had to had to tell him to make a list before he ‘hit the bowl’ in the morning,” Gelsomino told Uygun, using stoner slang for smoking pot. “That was because you were trying to get him to organize himself to make a plan for these attacks.”

Gelsomino described another instance in which Church was so drunk, he had to get one of the undercover officers to drive his Ford Taurus.

“Who’s sober enough to drive?” Church asked, according to Gelsomino.

Chikko allegedly answered, “I can drive. I only had a few.”

When Uygun tried to convince the two men to leave the Bridgeport apartment they were staying at for a protest in Woodlawn, they chose to stay at the apartment drinking beer until Church’s drug dealer showed up to deliver weed, Gelsomino said.

“The revolution had to take a bit of a hiatus that night,” Chase’s attorney, Thomas Durkin said.

In a recording played in court, Chase allegedly discussed with undercover cops the possibility of rappelling down a tall building to knock out a surveillance camera and a plan to hang Molotov cocktails from his trench coat. He also fantasized about getting a lacrosse wicket to fling the firebombs at police, according to transcripts.

“Everybody is laughing including your partner,” Durkin told Uygun, pointing to the chuckles heard in the background as Chase speaks. “The whole tone of this [recording] is rather loud. People who are drunk are usually loud.”

Uygun responded: “I don’t think it was a joke. I thought it was serious. To them, it was funny.”

Durkin then insinuated that the undercover officer was more than happy to egg Chase on.

“You’re the one talking about revolution,” Durkin said. “These guys are talking about protesting and breaking windows.”

In an 11th-hour plea to Cook County Judge Thaddeus Wilson, defense attorneys asked that the terrorism charges be thrown out. Wilson denied their request.

“The evidence in this case — no matter how slight or thin — is sufficient,” Wilson said from the bench. “The weight to be given the evidence will be left to the jury.”

Email: bslodysko@suntimes.com

Twitte: @BrianSlodysko



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