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Activist’s fingerprints found on alleged Molotov cocktail: expert

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: March 3, 2014 1:08PM



Two fingerprints on an alleged Molotov cocktail bottle found in a Bridgeport apartment in the days leading up to the May 2012 NATO summit belonged to out-of-town activist Brian Church, a forensic scientist with the Illinois State Police testified Monday.

But the scientist later acknowledged she couldn’t say when Church touched the bottle. Only that he likely wasn’t wearing gloves.

Testimony in the NATO 3 terrorism trial of Church, Jared Chase and Brent Betterly continued briefly Monday. Scheduling conflicts limited prosecutors to three witnesses.

Defense attorneys for the accused have summed up as “bravado” and “idle chatter” what prosecutors say was the trio’s plan to make international headlines in Chicago during the summit by causing mayhem and setting police on fire.

Retired Chicago police evidence technician Clarence Jordan testified he was called on May 16, 2012, to an apartment in the 1000 block of West 32nd Street. He said he was told to process as evidence four amber-colored bottles in a white metal trash can found in a bathroom that smelled like gas. Dipped inside each bottle was a black cloth, he said.

Illinois State Police forensic scientist Julie Wessel later testified two fingerprints on one of the bottles matched a sample taken from Church.

Jordan said he didn’t touch the bottles until a bomb and arson unit was called to the apartment. Once the unit arrived, Jordan said he removed the bottles from the trash can. He also said the bomb technician disposed of the liquid contained in the bottles by pouring it down a toilet.

“I guess the bomb and arson guy didn’t get too excited when he saw what it was,” said Thomas Durkin, Chase’s attorney.

Durkin also sparred with Chicago Police officer Robert Arnolts, who testified he followed Betterly and Church to a gas station in Lake Station, Ind., where they picked up a third person. He also answered questions about a large, red, wooden “shield” he said he found in the 2100 block of Lumber near the headquarters of Occupy Chicago.

The shield was painted with the words “Austerity Ain’t Gonna Happen,” and Arnolts said it could be used as a weapon because of the screws that stuck out through its front.

“If it was pressed against a person it would be a weapon, yes,” Arnolts said.

Arnolts later conceded all of the screws sticking through the sign were attached to a rope handle on the other side.

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