NATO 3 defendant Jared Chase gets more prison time

Jared Chase  photo by IDOC

Jared Chase
photo by IDOC

Nato protester’s prison term extended for throwing human waste at guard

Jared Chase, who was imprisoned on charges related to a Nato protest, has Huntington’s disease and experts say he deserves treatment not punishment
By Renée Feltz
for the Guardian Tuesday 12 April 2016

Editor’s note: Letters of support can be sent to Jared Chase at the address listed here, and updates are posted by his support group at

A 30-year-old Illinois prisoner diagnosed with a degenerative disease that destroys higher brain functioning will spend at least two more years behind bars for conduct experts say deserves treatment instead of disciplinary action.

Jared Chase was sentenced on Monday to an additional year in prison for squirting a shampoo bottle of his human waste at a correctional officer. At the time of the assault in 2013, he was in jail facing state terrorism charges related to protests against the 2012 Nato summit in Chicago.

In a high-profile trial in 2014 prosecutors argued that Chase and two friends planned to attack police stations, the mayor’s house, and Barack Obama’s campaign headquarters. Defense attorneys countered that the men were entrapped by two first-time undercover police officers who plied them with alcohol. Recorded audio of their drunken bravado was used in court. The terrorism charges failed to stick, and the three were instead convicted of felony possession of an incendiary device – four molotov cocktails made from beer bottles – and misdemeanor mob action.

Prosecutors sought a maximum punishment of 14 years, but judge Thaddeus Wilson sentenced the three to between five, six and eight years. Chase got the longest sentence after a correctional officer testified during the punishment phase of the trial that he had attacked him in jail – the same incident for which Chase was sentenced on Monday. The other men served half their time. Chase is the only one still in prison.

Dr Kathleen Shannon, an associate professor of neurology at Rush Medical College, testified during the 2014 trail that Chase had physical and cognitive signs of Huntington’s disease, and that a genetic test had confirmed the diagnosis. The disease is hereditary and marked early on by personality changes, irritability, impulsiveness and impaired judgment. Physical symptoms appear later, such as slurred speech, and involuntary, jerky movements known as “chorea” .

Shannon met with Chase twice, and testified he had a life expectancy of about 15 years, or a maximum age of about 39. Chase’s father died of the disease while his son was awaiting trial.

When Chase appeared in court on Monday he was dressed in a brown jumpsuit worn by inmates in solitary confinement at Pontiac correctional center, a segregated unit packed with inmates who have mental illness. He was thin and struggled to speak. At a court hearing in December he was heavily bruised and explained he had struggled with guards.

Court records show that while in prison, Chase stored his human waste in cartons he hoarded in his cell, and would throw them out into common areas. Chase said in a letter that he acted out when he did not receive the special diet or vitamins prescribed for his disease.

In 2013, Dr Shannon testified that throwing feces and urine at people was “very common” for people with Huntington’s disease, and compared the outbursts to a toddler’s temper tantrum. Those who suffer from the disease often struggle to learn from their mistakes and may be compelled to repeatedly engage in behavior that is not in their best interest. .

A 2015 study by an international team of experts found that neurodegenerative diseases can “cause dysfunction of neural structures involved in judgment, executive function, emotional processing” and “lead to antisocial and criminal behavior”. It noted that while “they are able to understand their actions and sometimes even to verbalize that they were wrong” the patients they observed “lack the inhibitory circuitry in the orbitofrontal, anterior insular, and anterior cingulate cortex to prevent inappropriate behavior”.

It concluded that this made them “particularly vulnerable to legal systems” and that “these individuals should be treated differently by the law.”

Last year Anne Leserman, a social worker and assistant director of community services at Huntington’s Disease Society of America, wrote a letter to prison officials urging better treatment for Chase. She noted that, “in a stressful situation, like one that would be experience in a prison environment, these set of symptoms might be enhanced”.

But instead of prompting his release or additional treatment, Chase’s continued outbursts and resulting stints in solitary confinement have resulted in a loss of one year of “good behavior” time, which means he will serve at least one more year than the usual half-time of his eight-year sentence. His new one-year sentence for assault must be served consecutively.

For Brent Betterly, who traveled with Chase as an activist in the Occupy Wall Street movement and was a co-defendant in the Nato case who has since been released, Monday’s court hearing was “like watching my friend die before my eyes.” he said.

Betterly said Chase appeared to have lost more weight, and twitched repeatedly as he struggled to speak in court.

“Every year they add on is another nail in the coffin, so to speak,” he said. “At this point it is just vindictive what they are doing to Jay.”