Did Chicago police mastermind alleged NATO terror plots?
At least 11 men were arrested in three separate incidents in the days before this weekend’s conference of world leaders in the Windy City. As events wind down on Monday, however, half of those originally detained have been released with no charges pressed and little explanation from investigators. Of those that remain behind bars, all have been linked to two alleged police informants, “Mo” and “Gloves,” that are believed to have worked undercover with law enforcement to infiltrate the Chicago activism community.
The attorney representing three men arrested on terrorist-related charges on Wednesday says that the alleged crimes in question were perpetrated by Chicago police officers and reeks of entrapment. Those close to individuals apprehended this week on separate but similar charges also say that the alleged crimes in those cases are full of holes and seem equally suspicious.
Three of the men arrested Wednesday night remain in custody on Monday for allegedly conspiring to commit terrorism, providing material support for terrorism and possessing of an explosive incendiary device. The trio was swept up in a raid in the Chicago neighborhood of Bridgeport at around 11:30 that evening that ended with nine suspects behind bars. After two days of unanswered questions, however, six of the men were quietly released without charges.
One of those men, who gave his name to the Chicago Tribune as Robert Lamorte, says he had only been in town for an hour when he was arrested by a swarm of police clad in riot gear with weapons drawn.
"I'm leaving here first chance I get," Lamorte tells the paper. "I don't want to deal with any more problems."
Lamorte adds that he was never told what crimes he was accused of committing before he was released without any charges. Others on the scene tell reporters that they were called “commies” and anti-gay slurs by the arresting officers.
Also arrested during Wednesday’s raid were a 66-year-old grandfather and a mid-30s male who tells the Tribune he was handcuffed and shackled for 18 hours, refused access to a bathroom and never read his constitutional rights.
Aside from an alleged “conspiracy” charge, that man — 36-year-old Darrin Annussek — tells the Tribune, "None of us were told why this was happening.”
The three men still in custody over the alleged crime — Brian Church (22), Jared Chase (27) and Brent Betterly (24) — are being represented by an attorney who claims his clients were the victims of entrapment.
“This is a way to stir up prejudice against a people who are exercising their First Amendment rights," lawyer Michael Deutsch said at a Saturday hearing for the men. "There were undercover police officers that ingratiated themselves with people who come from out of town."
According to law enforcement, the three men were planning to use homemade Molotov cocktail explosives to target locales that included the Chicago campaign headquarters of US President Barack Obama and the home of Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel.
“The men had been making Molotov cocktails out of empty beer bottles filled with gasoline and fitted with cut bandanas for fuses,” Cook county state attorney Anita Alvarez told a news conference after the bond hearing.
“It is pretty clear from the evidence they were making the bombs,” Alvarez said. “There was a lot of discussion about making these Molotov cocktails and what they were going to do with them.”
Immediately after the arrests, a spokesperson for the National Lawyers Guild told reporters that the house that was raided contained supplies for home-brewing beer; not explosives.
"The charges are utterly ridiculous. CPD [Chicago police department] doesn't know the difference between home beer-making supplies and Molotov cocktails,” Occupy Chicago member Natalie Wahlberg — who was not arrested — tells the Tribune.
Of the nine arrested on Wednesday, Church, Chase and Betterly remain behind bars and are being held on $1.5 million bond.
In two separate incidents tied to the NATO protests, 28-year-old Mark Neiween and Sebastian Senakiewicz, 24, were both arrested on Thursday. According to investigators, Neiween allegedly met with sources to discuss acquiring parts for a bomb; prosecutors say Senakiewicz claimed that he could blow up a train overpass with a vehicle full of weapons, reports the Chicago Sun-Times. The paper adds that Senakiewicz volunteered to officers that he had no explosives and authorities were unable to find any at his residence.
Officials could not find any explosives tied to Neiween, either.
"He is being targeted because of his beliefs," Senakiewicz’s attorney, Molly Armour, tells the Associated Press of her client. "These charges are extremely sensational."
Sarah Gelsomino, another defense attorney, adds to the AP that representatives for Neiweem “have seen zero evidence” from prosecutors.
Both Gelsomino and attorney Steven Saltzman, representing Mr. Neiweem, tell Bloomberg news that they believe the “Mo” and “Gloves” characters were working as police informants for the Chicago PD. Gelsomino adds to the AP that other activists in the area have met “Mo” and “Gloves” at rallies and gatherings in recent weeks and now fear that they are being targeted as well.
"Even if charges are dropped or reduced later, they will have succeeded in spreading fear and intimidation," Kris Hermes, an aide with the National Lawyers Guild, tells the AP.