COOK COUNTY CRIMINAL COURTHOUSE — Neither the three NATO protestors nor their attorneys appeared all too surprised Wednesday when a Cook County judge rejected their argument that Illinois' terrorism law is unconstitutional.
Brian Church, Jared Chase and Brent Betterly, dubbed the "NATO 3" after their arrest in the days leading up to the May, 2012 NATO summit in Chicago, were charged under the state's rarely-used terrorism law for their alleged role in a plot to incite chaos by attacking strategic spots with homemade explosives.
Attorneys representing the trio have called for some of the charges to be dismissed on grounds that the law is overly vague and unconstitutional.
But citing a "crackdown" on terrorists, Cook County Judge Thaddeus Wilson ruled that the law does not violate the U.S. Constitution or rights to freedom of speech.
"It's not a total loss," said attorney Michael Deutsch, of the People’s Law Office, who represents Church.
Prosecutors allege in court documents that the three traveled from Florida and made a variety of plans to stir up trouble during the NATO summit.
They allegedly made Molotov cocktails and planned attacks on President Barack Obama’s campaign nerve center, Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s home and other targets, according to court records.
Attorneys for the NATO 3 claim the state "pulled the [terrorism charges] out of their bag of tricks strictly for publicity purposes."
A motion filed last month by lawyers for the defendants argued that the terrorism charges are based on vague definitions of “terrorism” and “terrorist act” from an Illinois law passed in the wake of the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks.
“The state improperly exploited these unconstitutionally vague terms to bring these highly inflammatory ‘terrorism’ charges in order to prejudice the defendants, discredit the anti-NATO demonstrators, and justify the enormous costs of the security tactics of the Chicago police during the NATO summit,” the defendants’ motion reads.
Deutsch said three defendants convincing a judge that the law was unconstitutional would be "an uphill battle."
After almost a year behind bars, the three men were escorted into court Wednesday in their jail jump suits. They smiled at the dedicated contingent of supporters who show up for each of their monthly court hearings, but remained straight faced when Wilson ruled against their motion for dismissal.
The judge said he will allow attorneys representing the NATO 3 to make the case at trial that the terrorism law was applied unfairly.