The NATO 3—Brent Betterly, Brian Jacob Church, and Jared Chase—were brought before Judge Thaddeus Wilson again today for another status hearing leading up to their trial in September. The defendants looked well and were not shackled at the hands, only at the feet. There were also fewer sheriff’s deputies in the viewing gallery intimidating supporters.
As the September 19th trial date looms closer and closer, we must pack the courtroom gallery to let our comrades know we stand with them as they face this state repression. These status hearings have uncovered previously unknown information about the broad and sweeping surveillance program carried out by the Chicago Police Department against the activist community. They have also revealed the nature of the legal fight the NATO 3 are facing. Their lawyers continue to work hard on their defense and support funds are still urgently needed to help them prepare for trial. You can make a tax-deductible donation today by sending a check or money order with “8th Day Center/Nato 5 Defense Fund” in the memo line to:
8th Day Center for Justice
205 W. Monroe St. Suite 500
Chicago, IL 60606
You can also donate online at https://www.wepay.com/donations/nato-5-defense (these donations are not tax-deductible).
The judge has attempted to maintain a strict schedule, holding status hearings every two weeks to monitor the progress of outstanding discovery issues. The prosecutors have dragged out the discovery process past two set deadlines by withholding key information needed by the defense team. This information largely has to do with the extensive surveillance program of the Chicago Police Department and their months of spying on activists as well as their collaboration with federal police agencies.
In the last hearing, the judge ordered the prosecution to comply with a handful of discovery requests made by the defense. The main issue of contention was how much the broad surveillance investigation into Occupy Chicago, the Mental Health Movement, Chicago Street Medics, and other activist groups would be given up by the prosecutors and the Chicago Police Department as part of the trial. While the judge ruled that a majority of the discovery motions were irrelevant to the specific case of the NATO 3, he did order the state to comply with a number of discovery requests, including the following:
* the 1st Amendment worksheet produced by the field intelligence team in the course of the investigation and all subsequent re-applications
* text messages exchanged between different officers involved in the investigation
* Affidavits from the three police informants as well as additional officers within the Field Intelligence Team regarding the specific investigation of the three defendants, but not the larger investigation into Occupy Chicago
* The identification of officers involved in taking pictures during surveillance operations
* Any additional information on training programs undergone by the police informants
Today, the prosecution had not secured this discovery material, wasting more time to cover up the repressive state surveillance behind the targeting of the NATO 3. Matthew Thrun, Assistant State Attorney, claimed to have scheduled a meeting this Thursday with the 15 officers involved in the Field Intelligence Unit behind the clandestine spying and targeting operation carried out by the Chicago Police Department against activists. Thrun told Judge Wilson that they will have information on the deleted text messages and surveillance pictures after this meeting. The plan agreed upon by the prosecution and the defense is for the prosecution to be in compliance with the discovery orders in 2 weeks.
Two attorneys within the defense team then previewed motions to dismiss that will be filed by the next hearing. Michael Deutsch with the National Lawyers Guild, who is defending Brian Jacob Church, alluded to a pretrial motion to dismiss the arson charges, arguing that the facts of the indictment do not fulfill the statute. Attorneys for Brent Betterly alluded to their own pretrial motion to be filed by the next hearing to dismiss a variety of charges against him based on grand jury testimony.
Finally, the judge asked the prosecutors to what extent they had thus far received information from federal law enforcement agencies. In previous status hearings, the defense team requested discovery material from other agencies such as the National Security Agency (NSA), the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), and the Secret Service. The defense presented evidence of previous communications between these agencies through fusion centers on Occupy movement activities. The prosecutors stated that they had not received any information from the requests they submitted and the judge encouraged them to meet the scheduled deadlines.
The next court date is June 11, 2013 at 2 pm in Courtroom 303 of the Cook County Criminal Courthouse (26th and California).