CHICAGO — Prosecutors on Saturday accused three activists who traveled to Chicago for a NATO summit of manufacturing Molotov cocktails in a plot to attack President Barack Obama’s campaign headquarters, Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s home and other targets.
But defense lawyers shot back that Chicago police had trumped up the charges to frighten peaceful protesters away, telling the judge it was undercover officers known by the activists as “Mo” and “Gloves,” not his clients, who brought the firebombs to a South Side apartment where the men were arrested.
“This is just propaganda to create a climate of fear,” Michael Duetsch said. “My clients came to peacefully protest.”
On the eve of the summit, the dramatic allegations were reminiscent of previous police actions ahead of major political events, when officials moved quickly to prevent suspected plots but sometimes quietly dropped the charges later.
Prosecutors said the men were self-described anarchists and told a crowded courtroom that they intended to create mayhem in Chicago. A state’s attorney cited one of three men boasting weeks earlier about the damage they would do in Chicago.
“After NATO, the city will never be the same,” he quoted the man as saying.
At one point, one of the men asked the others if they had ever seen a “cop on fire.”
Police Superintendent Garry McCarthy dismissed the idea that there was anything more to the arrests than police responding to “an imminent threat.”
“When someone was in the position (of having) Molotov cocktails — that’s pretty imminent,” he said. “It was not a completed investigation.”
The suspects are Brian Church, 20, of Fort Lauderdale, Fla.; Jared Chase, 24, of Keene, N.H.; and Brent Vincent Betterly, 24, of Oakland Park, Fla.
If convicted on all counts — conspiracy to commit terrorism, material support for terrorism and possession of explosives — the men could receive up to 85 years in prison.
Later, outside the courtroom, Duetsch said the two undercover police officers or informants were also arrested during the Wednesday raid, and defense attorneys said they later lost track of the two.
“We believe this is all a setup and entrapment to the highest degree,” Duetsch said.
The suspects were each being held on $1.5 million bond. Six others arrested Wednesday in the raid were released Friday without being charged.
They apparently came to Chicago late last month to take part in May Day protests. Relatives and acquaintances said the men were wanderers who bounced around as part of the Occupy movement and had driven together from Florida to Chicago, staying with other activists.