Three activists who traveled to Chicago for a NATO summit that opens today were accused Saturday of making Molotov cocktails in a plot to attack President Obama's campaign headquarters here, Mayor Rahm Emanuel's home and other targets.
But defense lawyers said Chicago police had trumped up the charges to frighten peaceful protesters away, telling a judge it was undercover officers known by the activists as "Mo" and "Gloves" who brought the firebombs to a South Side apartment where the men were arrested.
"This is just propaganda to create a climate of fear," Michael Deutsch said. "My clients came to peacefully protest."
Prosecutors said the men were self-described anarchists who boasted weeks earlier about the damage they would do in Chicago, including one who declared, "After NATO, the city will never be the same."
Police Superintendent Garry McCarthy dismissed the idea that the arrests were anything more than an effort to stop "an imminent threat."
"When someone was in the position [of having] Molotov cocktails -- that's pretty imminent," he said. "It was not a completed investigation."
The suspects are Brian Church, 20, of Fort Lauderdale, Fla.; Jared Chase, 24, of Keene, N.H.; and Brent Vincent Betterly, 24, of Oakland Park, Fla.
If convicted on all counts -- conspiracy to commit terrorism, material support for terrorism and possession of explosives -- the men could get up to 85 years in prison.
Outside the courtroom, Deutsch said the two undercover officers or informants were also arrested during the Wednesday raid, and defense attorneys later lost track of them.
"We believe this is all a setup and entrapment to the highest degree," Deutsch said.
The suspects were each being held on $1.5 million bond. Six others arrested in the raid were released Friday without being charged.
The three who remained in custody apparently came to Chicago late last month to take part in May Day protests. Relatives and acquaintances said the men were wanderers who bounced around as part of the Occupy movement and had driven together from Florida to Chicago, staying with other activists.
Just one week before their arrest, at least two of the suspects were involved in a minor confrontation with police captured on a video that was then posted on YouTube and aired widely by Chicago media, said another defense attorney, Sarah Gelsomino.
The men had been stopped by police after turning their car into a private driveway.
In the video, one officer asks another what Chicago police would have said in 1968 when they clashed with demonstrators at the Democratic National convention.
"Billy club to the [expletive] skull," the officer responds. Another officer says to the men in the car, "We'll come look for you."
Documents filed by prosecutors in support of the charges painted an ominous portrait of the men, saying the trio also discussed using swords, hunting bows and brass-knuckle handles in their attacks.