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2 more charged with terrorism-related crimes at NATO summit

Jared Chase, Brian Church, Brent Vincent Betterly, Sebastian Senakiewicz, Mark Neiweem were charged in Cook County Court for preparing explosives or making threats during the NATO summit this weekend.

 

Updated at 4:55 p.m. ET: CHICAGO -- Prosecutors said Sunday they have charged two more people as part their investigation into activists who planned to take part in demonstrations at the two-day NATO summit.

The Cook County State's Attorney's office said Sebastian Senakiewicz, 24, a native of Poland who lives in Chicago, is charged with falsely making a terrorist threat. Mark Neiweem, 28, who authorities believe to be from Chicago, is charged with attempted possession of explosives or incendiary devices.

Senakiewicz had bragged about having explosives, a prosecutor told a judge, claiming that he hid them in a hollowed-out Harry Potter book. But searches did not find any explosives, the prosecutor said.


The men were scheduled to make an initial court appearance later Sunday, when prosecutors were expected to offer more details about their allegations. Also expected in court Sunday is a third man, Taylor Hall, who was arrested during protests on Saturday night and is charged with aggravated battery to a police officer. Authorities did not immediately release Hall's age or hometown.

Three other activists appeared in court and were accused of manufacturing Molotov cocktails and having plans to attack President Barack Obama's campaign headquarters and other targets during the NATO protests.

Kris Hermes, a spokesman for the National Lawyers Guild, which has represented many of the activists pro bono, said the new charges were an "effort to frighten people and to diminish the size of the demonstrations."

Hermes said dozens of lawyers had donated their time over the weekend and that hundreds had called the guild's hotline. By Sunday morning, they had represented 37 people who had been arrested.

He said one man was clubbed over the head, causing heavy bleeding, and that another was transported to the hospital after being run over by a police van. That man, Hermes said, was shackled to his gurney during the four hours he was at the hospital.

Hermes said that while the five cases may not be related, his group believes the same police informants turned them in.

The trio charged Saturday are Brian Church, 20, of Ft. Lauderdale, Fla.; Jared Chase, 24, of Keene, N.H.; and, Brent Vincent Betterly, 24, of Oakland Park, Fla. They were arrested on Wednesday and face felony charges of conspiracy to commit terrorism, material support for terrorism and possession of explosives.

Senakiewicz was arrested a day later and there was no immediate indication that he had links to Church, Chase or Betterly. It also wasn't clear when Neiweem was arrested and if he had any links to the other charged activists.

Defense lawyer Michael Deutsch on Saturday accused police of setting up their clients in an attempt to frighten peaceful protesters. He said undercover officers brought the firebombs to a South Side apartment where the men were arrested.

Critics say filing terrorism-related charges against the protesters is reminiscent of previous police actions ahead of major political events, when authorities moved quickly to prevent suspected plots but sometimes quietly dropped the charges later.

"Even if charges are dropped or reduced later, they will have succeeded in spreading fear and intimidation," Hermes said.

Police Superintendent Garry McCarthy on Saturday flatly dismissed the idea the arrests of the initial three suspects were anything more than an effort to stop "an imminent threat."

Prosecutors said Church, Chase and Betterly used fuel purchased from a Chicago gas station for makeshift bombs, pouring it into beer bottles and cutting up bandanas to serve as fuses. If convicted on all counts, they could get up to 85 years in prison. They are each being held on $1.5 million bond.

Msnbc.com's Isolde Raftery contributed to this report.

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