The NATO 3—Brent Betterly, Brian Jacob Church and Jared Chase—appeared in court on Tuesday, April 30th for a status hearing about their case, one of the many pre-trial hearings in advance of their trial date in mid-September. This court date was on the one-year anniversary of their comrades in the Cleveland 4 being arrested at gun point after being entrapped by an FBI informant and was just one day before May Day protests around the country. This date was also just about two weeks before the International Week of Solidarity for the NATO 5 from May 16-21.
In court, the defense attorneys argued with the prosecutors over discovery (i.e., evidence) issues. The prosecution is trying to drag its feet on requesting evidence from federal agencies such as the FBI, Secret Service, and Department of Homeland Security. The defense has reason to believe that these and other agencies have information relevant to the politically motivated prosecution against the NATO 3, who traveled to Chicago from Florida to join thousands of other people in the streets of the Windy City to protest the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) during its summit in May 2012.
The judge asserted that the defense has the right to explore all possible evidence in this case and that the prosecutors have the obligation to made good-faith efforts to acquire all the relevant evidence. The judge is expected to issue formal rulings on the outstanding discovery issues before the next status hearing on Tuesday, May 14 at 2pm at the Cook County Criminal Courthouse in Room 303.
An important evidentiary issue that was discussed was the State’s request for Brian’s fingerprints. The judge granted this motion with the condition that Brian not be interrogated in any way and with the option of his defense attorneys being present when his fingerprints are taken. This will likely happen at the same time as a handwriting analysis, which the State had previously requested and the judge had granted. The analyses of the defendants’ handwriting are apparently in reference to handwritten instructions for making pipe bombs and potassium nitrate, which the State claims is in its evidence.
At the end of the hearing, the prosecutors mentioned that they had sent the defense a letter addressing their position on potential un-indicted co-conspirators. At the previous status hearing, the defense had argued that it had requested statements and names of any un-indicted co-conspirators but that the State had not addressed this issue in the updated Bill of Particulars (which is supposed to explain in detail the allegations against the defendants). At this time, the Defense Committee does not know the details of the State’s position on any potential un-indicted co-conspirators or whether anyone else is at risk of being indicted in this case. We will follow up on this and other pre-trial issues as more information gets on the record in open court.
The NATO 3’s lawyers are working hard on preparing a strong defense and fighting back against this state repression. Defense funds are still urgently needed. You can donate online at https://www.wepay.com/donations/nato-5-defense. You can also find our beautiful event poster and support pamphlet to help you organize your solidarity action or event for the International Week of Solidarity on the “Resources” page.