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NATO 3 Defendant Recording: 'Ready to See a Police Officer on Fire?'

By Erin Meyer | January 23, 2014 1:09pm | Updated on January 23, 2014 6:49pm
 Protesters, some affiliated with the Occupy Wall Street movement, briefly clash with police as they demonstrate in downtown Chicago on the eve of the NATO summit on May 19, 2012 in Chicago.
Protesters, some affiliated with the Occupy Wall Street movement, briefly clash with police as they demonstrate in downtown Chicago on the eve of the NATO summit on May 19, 2012 in Chicago.
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Spencer Platt/Getty Images

COOK COUNTY CRIMINAL COURTHOUSE  — An undercover police officer can be heard saying "let's do it" as she discusses making Molotov cocktails with three men accused of plotting terrorist attacks during the 2012 NATO summit, recordings played at the NATO 3 trial Thursday revealed.

In the secretly recorded conversations, made in the days leading up to the international meeting in Chicago, police officer Nadia Chikko can be heard asking the men, "Should we make some [Molotov cocktails]?"

When one of the men says "yes," Chikko chimes in, "Let's do it."

The men — Brian Church, Jared Chase and Brent Betterly — are currently on trial on terrorism charges at the Cook County Criminal Courthouse. They were arrested before the NATO summit after authorities say they caught them with four homemade fire bombs.

Thursday marked the second day jurors have listened to conversations — recorded by Chikko and her partner, Mehmet Uygun — largely involving Church, 22, and Chase, 29. Betterly, who played a main role in the unfolding court drama Thursday, had not been heard in most of the recorded conversations previously.

Prosecutors have alleged that the three came from Florida with plans to do more than protest peacefully while dignitaries and notables from around the world gathered in Chicago. Their plans allegedly included attacking President Barack Obama's re-election campaign headquarters in the Prudential Building near Millennium Park, Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s Ravenswood home and other targets.

Captured on tape, comments by all three of the defendants at various times reveal what prosecutors called violent sentiments toward police.

"Are you ready to see a police officer on fire?" Church said, according to one recording made while his group is accused of putting the finishing touches on four Molotov cocktails.

In another recording played in court Thursday, Chase can be heard saying the group should possibly test the cocktails out on a barking dog. On Wednesday, Chase was heard on tapes allegedly talking about using Molotov cocktails against police so "you cover them in a f------ ball of fire."

But in other conversations, the group talked about more mundane topics, like video games and getting high.

Defense attorneys have argued that the trio is little more than a band of misguided "goofs" whose bark is much worse than their bite.

In one recording the threesome appears to drop Lemonheads candy into their beers while laughing about "discovering a new f------ explosive." Another time Church reports that he had seen clowns protesting and hopes to get an "epic" photo of cop punching a clown.

When it comes time to go buy gasoline from the BP station down the street so that the group could make Molotov cocktails, Church says he is too cold and tired to do it. He can be heard on a recording saying he wouldn't do anything unless cops attacked protesters.

"I'll stay peaceful until they [police] start hurting someone," he said, while Chase and Betterly were allegedly making the fire bombs.

Defense attorneys criticized Chikko and the NATO investigation by Chicago police, which apparently put undercover officers on missions before the summit to look for anarchists on Division Street, at Heartland Cafe in Rogers Park and at Permanent Records, to name a few locations.

Chikko admitted to running license plates numbers when searching for suspects, even when police had observed no criminal activity. The only special training officers assigned to the investigations had was a general order outlining First Amendment protections.

"That's our job," she said defending the surveillance missions. "We gather [intelligence]."

The defense attorneys also contend that Church, Chase and Betterly never would have gone as far as they did in their plans to disrupt NATO if not for the two undercover police officers egging them on.

In a recording made on May 16, 2012 the day the NATO 3 were arrested, Chikko insulted Church for failing to come up with a usable mortar — typically a section of pipe use to launch fireworks.

"Dude, we've got Molotovs, that's not f------ whack," Uygun said.

That statement, defense attorney Michael Deutsch argued, was the first time anyone had mentioned Molotov cocktails that day.

"Time was running out," Deutsch told her. "You had to get them to make Molotov cocktails."

Chikko denied that making the explosives were her or her partner's idea.

"Sir, I am a [undercover officer], I was going with the flow of the conversation," she said from the witness stand.

Still, a little while later, Uygun and Chase went to the gas station to buy gasoline for the homemade fire bombs, Chikko said. She testified that Chase put on a pair of gloves and filled beer bottles with gasoline with Betterly directing him. She and Church stood back and talked, she said.

"I don't believe in preemptive strikes," Church can be heard saying on the recordings. But if police started threatening people, "you better believe its f------ going down," he said.

With the Molotov cocktails complete and stashed inside Church's car, Chikko testified she had to "buy some time" so police could secure a warrant.

She suggested the group go get some beer. Soon after they returned, police showed up with a warrant, found the Molotov cocktails and arrested Church, Chase and the two undercover officers. Betterly was taken into custody later.

Defense attorneys will continue Chikko's cross-examine Friday morning.