NATO 3 trial postponed to January, 2014

Update from NATO5Support: At a July 23 hearing, the judge told both sides to be ready instead for trial in early January, 2014. A final date will be confirmed at the next pretrial hearing on August 6.

(Read NATO defendant Mark Neiweem’s latest letter to supporters here.)

Jared Chase

Jared Chase

Brent Betterly

Brent Betterly

Brian Jacob Church

Brian Jacob Church

On Tuesday, July 9, the NATO 3—Brent Betterly, Jared Chase, and Brian Jacob Church—had another status hearing to discuss discovery issues and three important pre-trial motions. The motions were Jacob’s motion to suppress his post-arrest statement to the police, the joint motion to dismiss the arson charges, and Brent’s motion to dismiss all his charges due to false testimony to the grand jury violating his right to due process. The arguments about the post-arrest statement were pushed off yet again, the judge will rule on dismissing the arson charges within two weeks, and the judge denied Brent’s motion to dismiss his charges. Additionally, the defense team requested that the trial date be pushed back from September 16th of this year to mid-March of next year so they can have time to review all the discovery and prepare adequately for trial.

These developments mean that the defendants have an even longer ordeal ahead of them and need solidarity now more than ever. They’ve been locked up in Cook County Jail since May 16th of last year and continue to suffer shake downs by the guards that often include their books being stolen. Please write to them and send them books to help cheer them up now that it’s clear they will be spending at least another eight months in jail. You can also donate to their defense fund and participate in our internet auction fundraiser, as trial preparation expenses will continue to increase.

Our full court notes are available. Please read them and mark Tuesday, July 23rd at 2pm down on your calendars for their next status hearing. A brief summary of the motions discussed at the last hearing is below.

Brian Jacob Church’s Motion to Suppress His Post-arrest Statement

Church’s motion is to suppress the post-arrest statement he made to the police so it cannot be used against him at trial. The prosecution argued that they could not make a decision on whether they would possibly use the post-arrest statement against Jacob if he were to testify until they know whether he plans to testify. The defense asserted that the State said they would have an answer and be ready to proceed today and that they did not want to wait until Jacob took the stand, if he decided to, to resolve this issue. The judge exclaimed that he thought this issue would be argued in court today and did not expect there to be further delays on this matter, but said he hoped the attorneys could work this out by the next status hearing.

Motion to Dismiss the Arson Charges

The defense filed a motion to dismiss the arson charges because they do not specify the alleged object of the arson attempt, solicitation, and conspiracy and because they do not guard against the defendants being re-indicted for the same allegations if they are acquitted at trial (i.e., double jeopardy). The defense also pointed to problems with what was presented to the Grand Jury to secure the indictments, as the Second Amended Bill of Particulars lists more information than what was presented to the Grand Jury. Thus, the defendants are being put in the position of going to trial on all these allegations in the Bill of Particulars when these were not provided to the Grand Jury to get the indictments in the first place.

The State asserted that the information presented to the Grand Jury, in its totality, was sufficient for them to issue the indictments, and that the indictments are sufficiently specific to show the defendants the cause and nature of the charges against them. Additionally, they argued, the Bill of Particulars gives them more details to help them prepare their defense and guard against double jeopardy.

The judge expressed doubt about whether the information presented to the Grand Jury was sufficient and whether the indictment gave enough notice of the nature and cause of the charges. The judge also said he would take the motion under advisement and issue his ruling within two weeks.

Brent Betterly’s Motion to Dismiss His Charges Due to False Testimony to the Grand Jury Violating His Right to Due Process

Brent’s attorneys had filed a motion to dismiss his charges since the officer testifying to the Grand Jury had presented false, misleading, and potentially perjured testimony about the evidence against him to secure the indictments. The defense argued that the State has admitted that the majority of the statements made by this officer about Brent were false, including the information given to secure a terrorism indictment. Further, the defense argued that this false testimony is a violation of his right to due process that can be remedied by dismissing the indictment with prejudice. The defense also argued that this is a public policy issue because the Grand Jury is supposed to play an independent role and presenting false testimony to secure indictments is an abuse of this system and should not be tolerated.

For its part, the State asserted that they had not admitted any false testimony and that the Grand Jury had sufficient information to issue indictments. Additionally, they charged the defendants as co-conspirators, so each defendant is legally responsible for their co-defendants’ actions. During the Grand Jury testimony, the officer talked about the group as a whole and then each defendant individually.

The judge expressed that he felt that the information presented to the Grand Jury was weak and assumed that there was more to the charges, but that he believed there was sufficient information presented to the Grand Jury for their purposes. If there was misinformation, he said, it was not of such a character that the Grand Jury would not have indicted. Thus, he denied the motion.