CHICAGO (AP) — A jury yesterday acquitted three NATO summit protesters-including a Keene, N.H. man- of breaking Illinois’ rarely tested state terrorism law, a finding the defense said should dissuade Illinois or any other states from ever pressing such charges in a similar way against activists.
While jurors found them not guilty of the most ominous charges, Brian Church, Jared Chase and Brent Vincent Betterly were convicted on lesser counts of arson and mob action.
The defendants looked nervous yesterday as the jury, which deliberated for more than seven hours, filed in. But the three — Church, 22, of Fort Lauderdale, Fla.; Chase, 29, of Keene, N.H.; and Betterly, 25, of Oakland Park, Fla. — showed little emotion as the mixed verdicts were read.
Prosecutors portrayed the activists as sinister and dangerous anarchists who plotted to throw Molotov cocktails at President Barack Obama’s campaign headquarters during the 2012 summit.
Attorney Molly Armour, who represents Betterly, said jurors had showed they agreed prosecutors had been overzealous in characterizing the alleged crimes as terrorism.
“This is a line in the sand,” she said. “The war on terror can’t go this far.”
But the Cook County state’s attorney who brought the charges was defiant. Anita Alvarez raised her voice as she was asked if she accepted that her office had gone too far.
“Absolutely not!” she told reporters. “I would bring these charges (again) tomorrow morning — with no apologies.” Without explaining further, she also raised the specter of the Boston Marathon attacks last year, saying, “Have we forgotten about Boston?”
Speaking to reporters outside court, Thomas Durkin, who represents Chase and is a well-known terrorism-case attorney in federal court, said the men were disappointed they didn’t secure acquittals across the board. But he argued the outcome was still dramatic.
“This is a huge, huge victory,” he said. “There aren’t many cases the government ... the state ... hasn’t won in this country.” He said the charges illustrated what he called post-9/11 “hysteria.”