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Three Accused of Terror Plot Before NATO Summit

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Brent Betterly
Brent Betterly, 24, seen here in a police mug shot, told police he is from Massachusetts. Source: Chicago Police Department via Bloomberg

(Corrects arraignment date in 11th paragraph.)

May 20 (Bloomberg) -- Three men were accused of planning terrorist attacks during the NATO summit in Chicago, where world leaders including President Barack Obama are scheduled to gather this weekend, the county prosecutor said.

“Brian Church, Jared Chase and Brent Betterly were charged overnight with criminal acts relating to terrorism, conspiracy to commit terrorism and possession of explosives,” Anita Alvarez, the Cook County, Illinois, state’s attorney, said yesterday in a statement.

Chicago, the third-biggest U.S. city, is hosting the North Atlantic Treaty Organization summit today and tomorrow, amid heightened security measures in the downtown business district and at a nearby convention center, where Obama and representatives from NATO’s 28 member nations will convene.

“We’re very confident in the ability of Chicago” and the U.S. government to have “a very successful event,” Ben Rhodes, Obama’s deputy national security adviser, told reporters yesterday. “If these more serious allegations are true, then I think it was effective work in making sure that they couldn’t pose any additional threat to public security,” he said.

The men were accused of making Molotov cocktails to hurl at the president’s re-election campaign headquarters in Chicago, at the home of Mayor Rahm Emanuel, Obama’s former chief of staff, and at financial institutions and police stations, according to a statement issued by Alvarez and Chicago Police Superintendent Garry McCarthy.

‘Sensationalized Charges’

Sarah Gelsomino, an attorney at the National Lawyers Guild, said the men may have been the subjects of a police sting operation.

“These are very sensationalized charges,” Gelsomino, whose group is organizing a defense team for the men, said in a phone interview yesterday. She called the allegations “an attempt to demonize these people in the public eye.”

The mayor’s office didn’t return an e-mail yesterday seeking comment.

“The investigation began in early May 2012, and revealed that the defendants are self-proclaimed anarchists, and members of the ‘Black Bloc’ group, who traveled together from Florida to the Chicago area in preparation for committing terrorist acts of violence and destruction,” Alvarez and McCarthy said.

Church, 22, is from Fort Lauderdale, Florida; Chase, 27, is originally from Keene, New Hampshire; and Betterly, 24, told police he is from Massachusetts, according to prosecutors and police.

More Arrested

All three men will plead not guilty at an arraignment set for May 22, Gelsomino said. Bond was set at $1.5 million, she said. She said the men hadn’t yet been released.

The three were part of a group of nine people arrested May 16, according to a lawyers’ guild press statement. Gelsomino said two other people, who may have been part of a sting operation, were also arrested and released.

Alvarez and McCarthy said the case is still being examined with assistance from the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the U.S. Secret Service.

The men had or made improvised explosive-incendiary devices and weapons including a mortar gun, swords, a hunting bow, throwing stars and knives with brass-knuckle handles, Alvarez and McCarthy said.

Five Cleveland-area men on May 7 told a U.S. judge in Cleveland they were not guilty of charges related to an alleged plot to destroy a Cuyahoga County bridge. They were arrested on April 30 and May 1 following a U.S. government sting operation.

Three of the defendants in that case were self-proclaimed anarchists, according to a U.S. Justice Department press statement issued upon their arrest.

To contact the reporter on this story: Andrew Harris in Chicago at aharris16@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Michael Hytha at mhytha@bloomberg.net

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