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Jury selection in NATO protesters’ trial

Published: Wednesday, Jan. 8, 2014 12:17 a.m. CDT

CHICAGO – The process of selecting a jury began Tuesday for the trial of three young activists charged under Illinois terrorism laws with plotting Molotov cocktail attacks during NATO's 2012 summit in Chicago.

The case in Cook County Circuit Court will focus scrutiny on the rarely used state terrorism statutes, which critics say are unconstitutionally vague.

Would-be panelists began filling out questionnaires Tuesday, and they'll be questioned one by one later. Opening statements are expected to happen next week, the Cook County state's attorney's office said.

Brian Church, 22, of Fort Lauderdale, Fla.; Jared Chase, 29, of Keene, N.H.; and Brent Vincent Betterly, 25, of Oakland Park, Fla., have pleaded not guilty to conspiracy to commit terrorism, arson and other charges.

Defense attorneys argue that undercover police posing as activists, nicknamed "Mo" and "Gloves," entrapped their clients, enticing them into acting in ways they otherwise wouldn't have contemplated.

One alleged target was Mayor Rahm Emanuel's home, though defense attorneys say prosecutors exaggerated their claims. Church allegedly spoke about attaching a note to the tip of an arrow and shooting it at Emanuel's house, according to court documents.

"If this is what terrorism is, then we're all safe," Sarah Gelsomino, a lawyer for Church, told the Chicago Sun-Times in a recent interview. "If anything, this is a vandalism case at best."

All three defendants have been held in jail since their arrests just before the 2012 alliance gathering. They're being held on $1.5 million bail. If convicted, each could be sentenced to decades in prison.

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