Judge scolds activists’ lawyers at NATO 3 trial

Written By BY RUMMANA HUSSAIN Criminal Courts Reporter Posted: 03/03/2014, 08:39am

A Cook County judge overseeing the terrorism trial of three out-of-town activists berated their attorneys Tuesday for repeatedly stressing how the trio wasn’t charged federally and implying that Chicago Police officers violated other activists’ First Amendment rights in their investigation leading up to the NATO summit.

“You know darn well that was a violation of my order,” Judge Thaddeus Wilson said, scolding Jared Chase’s attorney Thomas Durkin for questioning witnesses as to why his client and two friends were prosecuted by the State’s Attorney’s Office rather than the feds.

Wilson said he was considering sanctioning Durkin after prosecutor Yvette Loizon asked the judge to give jurors curative instructions due to the defense’s “prejudicial” line of questioning and “implication of pervasive” police misconduct before the 2012 conference.

Although the judge didn’t grant the prosecution’s request, he did tell Chase, Brian Church and Brent Betterly’s lawyers he was “shocked” that they touched upon the First Amendment and tactics used by police before the men were arrested for an alleged plot that included attacking officers with Molotov cocktails.

“I was kind of shocked,” Wilson said. “I was thinking, ‘What kind of door are they opening here?’”

Earlier Tuesday, Illinois State Police chemist Alan Osoba testified that the paisley black cloth, beer bottles and colored “rags” allegedly used to make the firebombs tested positive for gasoline and were fashioned a bit differently than the traditional Molotov.

None of the materials, Osoba acknowledged, had any kerosene or motor oil — substances Durkin said were more commonly used for the fiery grenades.

“If we’re talking amateurs, we’re talking gasoline in a bottle, right?” Durkin said, hinting that the men, now known as the NATO 3, were quite callow when the crude weapons were made in the presence of undercover officers.

Jurors were also shown video surveillance that captured Chase paying $3.75 and pumping the gasoline that was allegedly used to make the Molotov cocktails on May 16, 2012.

Abdullah Norat, a former manager of the BP gas station, at 3047 S. Halsted St., testified that Church came in a day before hoping to fill $2 of worth of gas in an empty milk carton for his lawn mower.

Norat, who admitted he didn’t tell prosecutors about this exchange until earlier this month, said he had to turn Church down because he didn’t have a proper container.

Prosecutors presented the red gas can Chase used as well as a pair of handcuffs, vests and a myriad of weapons police discovered in Church’s car. Chicago Police Officer Oommen Sleeba testified that he found a knife and a police scanner in the second-floor Bridgeport apartment where Chase, 29, Church, 22, and Brent Betterly, 25, were living at with a dozen others at the time.

Sleeba said he had no way of knowing who the knife belonged to and when asked if he knew whether having a police scanner was legal, he said, “I’m not sure.”

Email: rhussain@suntimes.com

Twitter: @rummanahussain

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