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Slingshots, firecrackers, boasts and booze don’t add up to terrorism: Brown

Updated: February 24, 2014 1:28PM



Asecond day of testimony left me more inclined than ever Wednesday that there never should have been any terrorism charges brought against the NATO 3.

Undercover tape recordings of three out-of-state activists who came here in the spring of 2012 with designs on causing disruptions during the NATO Summit aren’t backing up that loaded accusation.

I’m not saying any of you would have much sympathy for Brent Betterly, Jared Chase and Brian Church after listening to the tapes, which mostly feature Church running off at the mouth about all the trouble he’d like to cause, if he could only figure out how.

“Being here is like my first major thing that I’ve ever done like really,” Church is heard confessing in between boasts about the damage he could do with firecracker-enhanced Molotov cocktails or his bow and arrow.

Church also thought he might use a big slingshot to break out a window at President Barack Obama’s campaign headquarters, but confessed he hadn’t been able to figure out where it was located.

The terrorists are also heard admitting they had spent much of their time in Chicago hanging out and getting drunk or stoned.

Based on what I’ve heard so far, I don’t question the legitimate public interest served by the undercover surveillance of the men, who clearly hoped to cause trouble of some sort. It made sense for police to be watchful, although I hope we’ll hear more about what other groups they chose to infiltrate in search of “anarchists.”

I’m not even questioning the decision to arrest and charge the men with something to remove them from the equation before the summit.

But we really ought to be careful as a society in throwing around a charge that carries with it the heavy baggage of 9/11, Oklahoma City and now Boston. When a real terrorism case comes along, there shouldn’t be any room for second-guessing.

Labeling these defendants as terrorists elevated the stakes in this case to another level — and also cast a chilling effect on others who likely skipped the protest march planned days later for fear of violence.

Without the terrorism charge, this case would have been over and done long ago, and there never would have been any “Free the NATO 3” campaign because they’d have finished serving their time by now.

The tape recordings have been introduced through the testimony of Nadia Chikko, the female undercover officer who along with her partner infiltrated the group,

If you’re wondering what made Chikko believable in her role as would-be anarchist, I guess it’s that she doesn’t fit your traditional notion of a Chicago Police officer.

Chikko, known to the defendants by the nickname “Gloves,” looks for all the world like actor Ralph Macchio about the time he was making “Karate Kid II.’’

Chikko’s cover story included her being in a lesbian relationship, which helped explain why she was always hanging around the protesters with her cousin, “Mo,” who was actually her CPD partner.

Prosecutors have yet to introduce their coup de grace, the undercover tape of the defendants allegedly making the Molotov cocktails in a Bridgeport apartment.

That may indeed be convincing evidence of their intent to commit a crime, but a terrorist act? I’m not buying it.

Email: markbrown@suntimes.com

Twitter: @MarkBrownCST



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