Three convicted of some charges tied to 2012 Chicago NATO plot

Mary Wisniewski
Brian Church (L), 20, Brent Vincent Betterly (C), 24 and Jared Chase, 24, are seen in these handout photos from the Chicago Police department released to Reuters May 19, 2012. REUTERS/Chicago Police/Handout

By Mary Wisniewski

CHICAGO (Reuters) - Three men accused of plotting to attack high-profile targets during a 2012 NATO summit in Chicago were convicted by a jury Friday on mob action and arson charges, but acquitted on terrorism-related charges, a setback for prosecutors.

The men, known as the "NATO 3," had faced seven charges each, including conspiracy to commit terrorism under a state anti-terrorism law adopted after the September 11, 2001, attacks.

Brian Jacob Church, 22, and Brent Betterly, 25, both of Florida, and Jared Chase, 29, of New Hampshire, face four to 30 years in prison when they are sentenced. Sentencing was set for February 28.

Jurors, who began their deliberations on Thursday evening, found the men not guilty of the more severe charges of providing material support to commit terrorism and conspiracy to commit terrorism.

The case marked the first time Illinois prosecutors had invoked the state conspiracy to commit terrorism charge. A prosecutor said in closing arguments on Thursday that the three defendants were bent on mayhem.

Defense attorneys described the men as drunken braggarts who had talked big to impress undercover officers.

The three were accused of planning attacks during the Chicago meeting of North Atlantic Treaty Organization officials using fire bombs, targeting police stations and President Barack Obama's re-election headquarters, along with other locations.

Chicago police, along with the FBI and the Secret Service, raided the Chicago apartment the three men used as a safe house and recovered pipe bomb instructions, an improvised mortar made from PVC piping, a crossbow, knives, throwing stars, a map of Chicago and four fire bombs, prosecutors said.

Prosecutors painted the men as anarchists and offered testimony from undercover Chicago police officers to show that the defendants were "ready for war."

Defense lawyers said the men were egged on by undercover officers and were more focused on getting high than being violent. They also said the charges were politically motivated to justify the millions of dollars spent on summit security.

(Reporting by Mary Wisniewski; Writing by David Bailey; Editing by Leslie Adler and Grant McCool)