CHICAGO – Lawyers for three men accused of plotting to attack President Barack Obama’s campaign headquarters with Molotov cocktails during last year’s NATO summit in Chicago filed a motion Friday seeking the dismissal of terrorism charges in the case.
In their filing, the defense team included a 25-page memorandum arguing that the definitions of terrorism in Illinois’ statute are so broad and ill-defined that they open the door to politically motivated charges.
“Basically what we’re saying is those definitions are unconstitutionally vague,” said attorney Michael Deutsch, who represents one of the suspects. “... As a result of that they allow for the arbitrary and discriminatory enforcement of that statute to be used by law enforcement.”
Prosecutors have 21 days to respond. The next hearing in the case is scheduled for late February and the trial is slated to start in September.
Suspects Brian Church of Ft. Lauderdale, Fla.; Jared Chase of Keene, N.H.; and Brent Vincent Betterly of Oakland Park, Fla., have been in custody since their arrest days before the start of the summit last May. They have pleaded not guilty to all 11 counts.
Friday’s motion only seeks the dismissal of four of those charges that fall under Illinois’ never-before-used anti-terrorism statute.
The statute defines terrorism as “intent to intimidate or coerce a significant portion of the civilian population.”
Deutsch said that leaves too much to individual interpretation and doesn’t specifically define the crime as one that involves violence. Thus, Deutsch contends, it could be applied to peaceful attempts at coercion, like a sit-in or a labor strike.
In the case involving the summit protesters, dubbed the “NATO 3,” the defense will argue that undercover officers befriended and attempted to steer the men, who are all in their 20s, into making fire bombs and plotting to attack Obama’s offices and other targets.
“Based on what we’ve learned in discovery, that activity was going on,” Deutsch said of the preparation of fire bombs. “I think the dispute is going to be about who did it, whether the undercover police did it. They would say our clients were involved. We’re saying it was mostly undercover police.”