One defendant used violent language and seemed intent on fighting with cops and vandalizing property on undercover recordings played at the NATO 3 trial.
On more than two dozen recordings played for jurors Wednesday, the man alleged by prosecutors to be the central figure in a terrorist plot during the 2012 NATO summit in Chicago comes across as a stoner trying to impress the female undercover police officer who'd befriended him.
Brian Church, 22, is on trial with Jared Chase, 29, and Brent Betterly, 25, on charges they plotted attacks against Chicago police, Mayor Rahm Emanuel's house and President Barack Obama's campaign headquarters. The so-called NATO 3, who had driven here from Florida, were arrested after filling four empty beer bottles with gasoline with the aid of two undercover Chicago officers at the Bridgeport home where they were staying with 12 others.
Defense attorneys argue that prosecutors have turned a simple vandalism or possession of explosives case into a "terrorist show trial."
Putting on their first terrorism case, Cook County prosecutors on Wednesday played 31 of the 55 recordings captured by the undercover officers.
Church at times used extremely violent language and seemed intent on fighting with police and vandalizing property. But much of the dialogue jurors heard Wednesday sounded less like terrorist plotting and more like a Judd Apatow film.
Church talks about his love for the popular "Grand Theft Auto" video game franchise and his housemates' plans to brew beer, acknowledges he's usually high and apologizes for his lack of initiative in planning or carrying out the plots.
"(Expletive), every time we're (expletive) spaced out," Church, described by his lawyers as a marijuana addict, told the undercover officers at a May 6 meeting. "I wish we could get more done."
At times even the undercover officers found his demeanor odd.
"Damn, did you smoke some bud or something?" undercover officer Mehmet Uygun, who posed as "Mo," said at another meeting.
"And we're a little drunk," Chase said, adding that he couldn't remember what he did the previous night.
Church loved doing what he called "recon missions" and talked repeatedly of "his favorite toy," a $65 bow-and-arrow he said he bought at a Fort Lauderdale shop affiliated with stuntman Steve-O from "Jackass."
But while Church said he wanted to target four police stations, he didn't want to Google the locations for two of them himself, Nadia Chikko, the female undercover officer, testified. He said he was thinking about building a "potato launcher" that would have Chicago police "dropping like flies" but never built it.
Church did construct a 7-foot-long plywood shield with screws drilled through the front and the words "Austerity ain't gonna happen" painted on the front, but he never was able to get it downtown, according to the recordings played in court.
The plot that Chase brought up in the recordings — attacking Obama's Loop re-election offices — featured him using a slingshot and marbles to break out windows sometime after midnight.
Much of Church's efforts appear focused on keeping Chikko's attention, even though she told the three she had a girlfriend.
"I'm one of the most unique (expletives) you'll ever find," he told her. "I'm so anarchist I don't even call myself anarchist."
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