Cook County prosecutors were desperate to “resurrect” terrorism charges jurors rejected against three out-of-town activists when they continually drew parallels between the trio’s antics and the deadly actions of the alleged Boston Marathon bombers, one of the protesters’ lawyers told Judge Thaddeus Wilson Friday.
Another NATO3 attorney said the “whole world was laughing” at the overzealous prosecutors, who wanted to put Brian Church, Jared Chase and Brent Betterly behind bars for 14 years after they were convicted of mob action and possessing an incendiary device.
“I don’t think you’d fall for that,” Chase’s lawyer Thomas Durkin said, advising the judge to dispense the most lenient sentence possible.
Wilson gave the men less prison time than the prosecution suggested for the thwarted plot to throw Molotov cocktails at Chicago Police officers during the NATO summit here two years ago.
But he also berated them, saying the dangerous scheme “may not have been terrorism but it’s terrorizing.”
Church, who said it “rips my heart apart” to be compared to accused Boston bombers Dzhokhar and Tamerlan Tsarnaev, received the lightest sentence — five years in prison.
Betterly was sentenced to six years while Chase, at 29 the oldest of the NATO3, was given an eight-year term.
Defense attorneys noted their actual time served will be less, given how long they’ve already been in jail and credit they could receive for good behavior.
They estimate Church has about six months to serve, Chase just under two years, and Betterly about one year.
“I’m not a perfect person, but I always learn from my mistakes” Church, 22, told Wilson, adding he appreciates the two years he has spent at Cook County Jail, where he has read “hundreds” of books and discovered himself.
But Church added: “Honestly, it’s been too long. Simply put, I want to go home.”
He also took issue with Assistant State’s Attorney Jack Blakey’s evocation of the atrocities in Boston before the judge rendered the sentences.
“I do love my country,” Church said.
Betterly, who described himself as an anarchist, also apologized but maintained he would never engage in the “perpetual fear and violence” he strives to eradicate.
He also denied an African-American jail guard’s claims that he chastised him; the guard had accused him of proclaiming, “Blacks should only speak when spoken to.”
The 26-year-old father then gave a speech on his political ideology, focusing on the importance of questioning authority, the “ominous” direction of the ‘War on Terror,’ and the Western powers’ continual bombardment of poorer countries.
He agreed with Blakey that he was no “Father of the Year,” but said he missed his son immensely.
“I hope this beautiful, intelligent boy knows that his daddy is not a monster,” Betterly said.
Chase, who has been diagnosed with the degenerative Huntington’s Disease, declined to comment in court.
After several Cook County Jail guards testified that Chase threw feces and urine from his cell, Dr. Kathleen Shannon explained his deteriorating condition was most likely to blame.
Chase may only live for ten more years, Shannon said.
Wilson agreed with Blakey’s assertion that Church, Chase and Betterly were more than “harmless drunks making beer” before their May 16, 2012 arrests, saying, “they were no Three Stooges.”
Wilson — continuing with the pop culture references — also said while the pair of undercover cops investigating the case were far from the “Hardy Boys” or “Nancy Drew,” they should be commended for their efforts.
At the trial earlier this year, defense attorneys had argued that Officers Nadia Chikko and Mehmet Uygun goaded the men into making the crude firebombs out of beer bottles and encouraged them as they discussed damaging a downtown Chase bank and police stations, throwing an arrow into Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s home and breaking windows at President Barack Obama’s campaign headquarters.
Wilson offered that both the men’s attorneys and prosecutors may have gone off on tangents.
“This was not a case about anarchists,” Wilson said.
“This was not a case about the 99 percent versus the one percent. This was not a case about declaring war on dissent. This was not a case about criminalizing protests. This was not a case about fear-mongering. This was not a case about the First Amendment. This was not a case about police entrapment and this was not a case about terrorism.”
Following the court hearing, Durkin surmised that Wilson may have given his client the longest sentence partly so he could receive proper medical care.
Standing with Church’s lawyer Michael Deutsch, Durkin reiterated his irritation at State’s Attorney Anita Alvarez for initially charging the men with the little-used state terrorism statute. The top prosecutor has the “mentality of the Spanish Inquisition,” Durkin said.
Alvarez, much more serene than when the jury acquitted the men of the most serious charges in February, said she was “happy” with the sentences.
“There’s no apologies for bringing the [terrorism] charges…. We’re not gonna sit back and wait for someone to get hurt,” Alvarez said Friday.