The “NATO 5” can be a confusing name because there are 3 separate cases involving 5 defendants:
- The NATO 3
- Brent Betterly
- Jared Chase (“Jay”)
- Brian Jacob Church (“Jacob”)
- Mark Neiweem (“Migs”)
- Sebastian Senakiewicz (“Sabi”)
The name “NATO 5” is used to highlight the common thread between these cases—all five of these activists were targeted by two undercover Chicago cops known as “Mo” and “Gloves”/“Nadiya”/“Nadia” for preemptive, politically motivated arrests prior to the NATO (North Atlantic Treaty Organization) summit. These cops started infiltrating Occupy Chicago events in the lead up to the summit and quickly ingratiated themselves with the defendants, targeting them because of their perceived politics and political associations.
All of the defendants remain incarcerated. More details about each legal case can be found on our Court Documents page and a longer political analysis of the cases can be found in our “Who are the NATO 5?” support pamphlet.
The NATO 3
On May 16, 2012, Chicago cops raided an apartment in the Bridgeport neighborhood of Chicago in an all-too-common attempt to scare people away from the imminent protests against the NATO summit. With guns drawn, the cops arrested 11 people in or around the apartment and quickly disappeared them into the bowels of the extensive network of detention facilities in Cook County, Illinois.
After a few days, a few things started becoming clear: 2 of the arrested “activists” were actually undercover Chicago cops who had targeted the real activists for arrest, 6 of them were illegally held and released at the last possible minute before court action could be taken to force their release, and 3 had been slapped with trumped-up, politically motivated terrorism charges for allegedly creating Molotov cocktails. These three—Brent Betterly, Brian Jacob Church, Jared Chase—are now known as the NATO 3. They were ultimately charged with 11 felony counts: material support for terrorism, conspiracy to commit terrorism, possession of an incendiary device (four counts), conspiracy to commit arson, solicitation to commit arson, attempt arson, and unlawful use of a weapon (two counts). The terrorism charges are part of the Illinois state version of the USA Patriot Act, which was passed shortly after 9/11.
The NATO 3 face up to 40 years in prison each and are scheduled to go to trial on January 6, 201. As they are being held on $1.5 million bond each, they have been incarcerated since their arrests in May 2012.
After being held a month without formal charges, the NATO 3 were indicted on June 13, 2012. Even so, the prosecutors refused to provide their defense attorneys with copies of the indictment, invoking their seldom-used right to withhold the indictments until the arraignment. The presiding judge called this petty, bad-faith move “a little strange” but did not order the prosecutors to hand over the indictments until the arraignment on July 2. Nevertheless, the defense attorneys were able to obtain the indictments from the court clerk on June 20.
The “discovery” process began in earnest after the arraignment. In this phase of the pre-trial proceedings, both sides must present the other with all the evidence they have collected and could use at trial. To date, the prosecutors have clearly demonstrated their desire to overwhelm the defense with mountains of useless, irrelevant information instead of providing substantive evidence to back up their outlandish charges. The defense team has been steadily poring over about three terabytes of electronic information and thousands of typed pages of information as part of the defense preparations.
The prosecutors’ continued antics have not prevented the defense attorneys from mounting a vigorous defense or from challenging the politically motivated nature of the charges. The attorneys, many of whom are involved in the People’s Law Office or National Lawyers Guild—Chicago, are all too experienced in fighting back against prosecutorial abuse and state repression in Chicago. In late January, the defense attorneys filed a motion to dismiss the terrorism charges for being unconstitutional both in general (“on their face”) and as applied to these defendants. Oral arguments on the motion happened on March 19 and the judge issued his order denying the motion on March 27. While the judge has ruled that the law itself is constitutional and while the terrorism charges still stand, the defendants may be able to file a motion to dismiss because the law is being unconstitutionally used against them as trial approaches or during the trial itself.
The constitutionality challenge marked an important step in Brent, Brian, and Jared’s fight against these politically motivated charges and for their freedom. Defense preparations are far from over, however, and a long way to go remains in this struggle.
Mark Neiweem (“Migs”)
On Thursday, May 17, 2012, Mark was arrested in a spectacular snatch-and-grab as he was leaving a restaurant. He was charged with attempted possession and solicitation of an incendiary device and was facing up to 30 years in prison as well as a consecutive sentence for a probation violation charge. The state alleged that he attempted to get “Mo” to buy materials for him for constructing a PVC pipe bomb. On April 11, 2013, he accepted a non-cooperating plea deal to the probation violation charge and to solicitation and attempted possession of an explosive or incendiary device. He was sentenced to a 3-year sentence in a state prison and is expected to receive credit for time served and other reductions in the duration of his incarceration for good behavior.
Mark is no stranger to the Chicago cops, as he has run in with them in the past and has been prominent in the Chicago-area anarchist community for some years now. In addition to being targeted for preemptive arrest, he immediately started receiving ill treatment from the cops in the jail. He was initially denied medical treatment after being arrested and, later, was forced to choose between going to the hospital and talking with his attorney. During his time in Cook County Jail, he was singled out by the guards and beaten severely on at least one occasion. Early on in his incarceration, he was cornered in his cell by guards who took pictures of his anarchist tattoos and tried to force him to sign an admission of being part of the “black bloc anarchists” gang. He steadfastly refused to sign. Mark’s attorney complained about the ongoing harassment and targeting of him in open court, but the harassment continued.
Mark has continued to experience harassment and abuse because of his politics while at Pontiac Prison, where he is serving his sentence. Prison officials wrote him up for disciplinary infractions for possessing literature with anarchist information and symbols. They subsequently stole several months of his “good time” (time credited to his sentence for good behavior) and have held him in solitary confinement since July 13, 2013.
Sebastian Senakiewicz (“Sabi”)
Sebastian was arrested in a spectacular house raid on Thursday, May 17, 2012 and charged with falsely making a terrorist threat for allegedly claiming that he had explosive materials and wanted to use them during the convention. The state alleges that he told the undercovers about the materials he possessed and his plans for using them. During the house raid, no explosives or other materials mentioned in the state’s proffer were found. Nevertheless, he was held on $750,000 bond and has been incarcerated since his arrest.
Facing 15 years in prison followed by deportation to his native Poland after serving his sentence, Sebastian took a non-cooperating plea deal in November 2012. He was sentenced to 4 years with a recommendation of 4 months in boot camp. In late March 2013, he began his 4-month boot camp term. He completed this camp successfully in July 2013 and was immediately taken into immigration detention after his graduation ceremony. He was held for a few weeks and then deported in August 2013.
Sabi’s case marks the second use of the terrorism threat statute, which is also part of the terrorism laws in Illinois’s state-level version of the USA Patriot Act. In the first use of this statute, a college student was charged with making a terrorism threat after draft lyrics for a rap song were found in his car on campus. He was convicted at trial and sentenced to five years. He appealed his conviction and the appellate court overturned it on March 6, 2013, stating that not enough evidence had been brought against him to show that he ever intended to communicate a terrorist threat. This decision strikes a blow against the state’s use of this arbitrary and capricious statute to label people as terrorists simply because cops and prosecutors do not like them.