Trial Day 5: Police Flushed Liquid from Beer Bottles Down Toilet, Other Testimony on Alleged Evidence

Check out our run-down of live tweets from the courtroom!

The NATO 3—Brent Betterly, Jared Chase, Brian Jacob Church—were in court for a few hours today for testimony from a few of the state’s minor witnesses in the case. The witnesses who appeared today were a Chicago cop who recovered a large plywood sign (called a “shield” by the state) allegedly built by some of the defendants, a cop who recovered beer bottles from the apartment where two of the defendants were arrested, and a fingerprint analysis expert. A couple of the state’s witnesses were unable to make it as scheduled today, so court was adjourned early and will resume at 10am tomorrow. All supporters must pass through the two security checks and be seated by 9:45am tomorrow. We are expecting full days in court for the rest of this week except for Friday, as the trial will not be happening that day.

The cop who claims to have recovered the large plywood sign, Russell Arnolds, testified that he and his team had found it face down in an alley about half a block from the Occupy Chicago space. The sign is painted red on one side with black text reading, “Austerity (A)in’t Gonna Happen” (the “a” in “ain’t” is a Circle A). Arnolds and his team took the from the alley and inventoried it into evidence. Arnolds noted that one of the handles on the sign was broken, with one screw missing and another one bent. He testified that he believes this sign is a shield that the defendants planned to use defensively and to attack the police. He testified that he believes the screws protruding from the handles through the front of the sign were intentionally made to stick out about 3/4 of an inch and were painted to camouflage them so they would avoid detection. Under cross-examination, he admitted that he had never seen anyone use the sign as a weapon.

Arnolds also testified that he was part of a team that surveilled Church and Betterly as they drove from Chicago to Indiana to pick up a friend. This trip took place between the time when the alleged Molotovs were created and the defendants were arrested. The state introduced surveillance photos of the defendants at a gas station in Indiana. Arnolds testified that he did not see any criminal activity while monitoring the defendants and was not aware that gas in Indiana is typically 30 cents cheaper per gallon than in Chicago, which makes filling up a gas tank there an appealing option for most people.

Retired Chicago cop Clarence Jordan next testified about his role in processing the evidence collected from the apartment after it was raided (he retired last year). He said he took photos of the outside and inside of the apartment and that he smelt gasoline when he entered the bathroom of the apartment. He said the smell got stronger when he lifted the lid on a white metal trashcan in the bathroom. He claims he saw four Molotov cocktails in the trashcan and told the officers on the scene that the bomb squad would have to come to the scene for that evidence to be handled. Once the bomb technician arrived, Jordan took the bottles out of the trashcan and inventoried them. During this process, the bomb technician emptied some of the liquid out of the bottles and flushed it down the toilet. Under cross-examination, Jordan admitted that no one wore protective suits when handling the bottles and he only wore his standard gloves when doing so.

The final witness of the day was Julie Wessel, a latent fingerprint analysis expert. Latent fingerprints are those left on objects after someone touches them, not ones taken during a fingerprinting process (e.g., using ink and paper). Wessel presented a slideshow explaining how fingerprint collection and analysis works. She also testified that only one of the four bottles alleged to have been Molotovs had usable fingerprints on it, and this bottle only had two usable prints. She further testified that the prints matched Church’s prints. Under cross-examination, she admitted that her analysis could not tell when Church touched the bottle.

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