Status Hearing June 11

Brent Betterly, Brian Jacob Church, and Jared Chase (known together as the NATO 3) were brought in front of Judge Thaddeus Wilson on Tuesday, June 11th for another status hearing. They were accompanied by multiple sheriffs deputies and a court full of supporters watching closely over the proceedings. The proceedings provided more information on the Chicago cops failing to preserve their cell phones and text messages from the investigation, which appear to be significant pieces of evidence in the State’s politically motivated prosecution. The defense also introduced a couple more motions to dismiss charges.

Assistant States Attorney Matthew Thrun submitted the prosecution’s response to multiple ongoing discovery issues still standing from the court’s ruling four weeks ago. This response was accompanied by hundreds of photographs stemming from the pre-NATO Summit surveillance program spying on activist groups in Chicago planning protests last spring.

Contained within the prosecution’s answer to discovery was the revelation that officers involved in field intelligence team 7150 (the unit in charge of all pre-NATO surveillance and infiltration) destroyed or disappeared personal cell phones used during the investigation. It seems that multiple officers in the unit used their personal cell phones to exchange information between themselves and different officers as well as their supervisors in the course of the operation. According to the material offered up to the court today by prosecutors, the private cell phone service providers used by the officers did not store their text message data and the officers mysteriously (and conveniently for them) no longer have those phones in their possession. Thus, these crucial pieces of evidence will not be available to the defense.

Additionally, the prosecution failed to hand over the First Amendment worksheet and subsequent re-applications for this worksheet. The court had ruled four weeks ago that these internal police department documents were to be handed over to the defense, and on this issue Judge Wilson was frustrated with the clear stalling tactics. Wilson instructed the prosecution to tell high-level police officials that “this court has a schedule and I intend to stick to it,” adding that he would issue a ruling to show cause if the documents had not been handed over to the defense before the next court date. He went on to say that “the federal court would be appalled to learn that […these files…] are not in order to be presented.”

Defense attorney Michael Deutsch also noted that the State’s discovery submissions have been coming on the dates of court hearings (rather than before a scheduled hearing to give the defense time to review the info in advance). The State agreed to submit the info on Thursday, June 20th, five days before the next hearing. The judge said that, if the State plans to submit Brian’s post-arrest statement at trial, then they are to submit a list of the police officers who will testify no later than Wednesday, June 12th.

Finally, the defense issued another round of pretrial motions to strike down the ludicrous charges targeting these three activists. All three defendants filed a motion to overturn the arson indictments. The statute requires that the alleged targets of the alleged arson be named in the indictments, which did not happen in this case. If successful, this motion would throw out those indictments, at which point the State Attorney would re-indict the defendants with more specific language. Forcing the State to name the alleged targets, as required by law, will help the defense know what the specific allegations are that they are defending against. Additionally, attorneys for Brian issued a motion to suppress his post-arrest statement because he was not properly informed of his legal rights prior to answering questions. Attorneys for Brent also filed their own motion to dismiss his charges due to false testimony having been given to the grand jury, which is a violation of his rights to due process.

On June 25th, the court will reconvene for further status updates and an evidentiary hearing regarding Brian’s latest motion. That means that officers involved in the field intelligence team will be called to the stand. Let’s pack the courtroom on June 25th and stand in solidarity with the NATO 3!