2 more activists charged related to NATO summit

MICHAEL TARM Associated Press Published:

CHICAGO (AP) -- Prosecutors charged two more activists Sunday with crimes tied to the two-day NATO summit, accusing one of saying he wanted to blow up a downtown Chicago bridge and a second with seeking to build pipe bombs.

The Cook County State's Attorney's office charged Sebastian Senakiewicz, 24, of Chicago, with falsely making a terrorist threat. Mark Neiweem, 28, of Chicago, is charged with attempted possession of explosives or incendiary devices.

Prosecutors told a judge at a Sunday court appearance that Senakiewicz, a Polish native, said he could blow up a bridge in downtown Chicago. They accused him of bragging repeatedly about having explosives and said he claimed to have hid them in a hollowed out Harry Potter book. Prosecutors said searches did not uncover explosives.

Prosecutors said Neiweem wanted to build a pipe bomb and wrote a list of ingredients required, including model rocket engines.

A Cook County judge set bond at $750,000 for Senakiewicz and $500,000 for Neiweem.

The charges came a day after three other activists appeared in court and were accused of manufacturing Molotov cocktails and harboring plans to attack President Barack Obama's campaign headquarters and other targets during the NATO meeting.

Kris Hermes, an attorney with the National Lawyers Guild, which has represented many of the activists, said the new charges were an "effort to frighten people and to diminish the size of the demonstrations." Hermes said Sunday that his group has tried but failed to obtain details from authorities about the charges.

"Like with the others, police have given us minimal information ... next to nothing," he said.

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 charges of conspiracy to commit terrorism, material support for terrorism and possession of explosives.

Senakiewicz and Neiweem were arrested a day later. Police Superintendent Garry McCarthy said he didn't know if they had any connection to Church, Chase or Betterly.

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.

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.

Expected in court later Sunday is a third man, Taylor Hall, who was arrested during Saturday night protests and is charged with aggravated battery to a police officer. Authorities did not immediately release Hall's age or hometown.

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