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January 28, 2014
NATO 3 defendants—Brian Jacob Church, Jared Chase, and Brent Betterly—were in court today for another short day of trial with 3 witnesses called by the State Attorneys. First was the former manager of a BP gas station in the Bridgeport neighborhood near the apartment raided by CPD. 16 video recordings were admitted into evidence of defendant Jared Chase and undercover CPD officer Mehmet Uygun (“Mo”) walking to and from the station to purchase gasoline in a gas can on May 16, 2012. Uygun is earlier captured on audio recordings offering to pay for the gas.
The former manager also testified with a whole new story that Church had been at the gas station the previous day with a milk jug attempting to purchase gasoline, and was denied the sale because of the container he allegedly planned to put it in. He claimed he had realized this days after he gave CPD the surveillance videos of Chase and Officer Uygun on May 19th. Yet he failed to inform CPD of this alleged prior attempt at purchasing gas by Church for an entire 20 months, and only reported it in January 2014, well after video had been destroyed. The defense team quickly revealed through cross examination the witness posted to the social media site Reddit about his desire to have control of the videos and his concern about others making money off them, his desire to be a ‘key player’ in this case as possible motivation for an entirely new story 20 months later, as well as fabricated claims unrelated to the case used to get attention. The videos also revealed Chase and Officer Uygun walking away from the station, with Chase handing Uygun the gas can to carry, which he did.
The state’s next witness was CPD officer Pete Flagler of the Intelligence Unit, who was assigned to surveillance of Church’s vehicle. He testified to obtaining a search warrant for the car on May 16th and about the items that were seized from the car, including a guitar case with a variety of novelty, hunting and survivalist gear, gas can, computer and a bag of unidentified fireworks, which the state destroyed. The GPS tracking device on Church’s car was also submitted into evidence.
A forensic scientist in Trace Chemistry employed by the state was next to take the stand. He testified that he undertook a variety of analysis tests on various fluids, including ones on black bandanas torn up for alleged molotovs by undercover officer Uygun, samples recovered from inside beer bottles before the remainder was flushed down the toilet, and from inside a rubber piece of hose, all which he testified to being gasoline. He also testified to black powder residue being found inside foot long pieces of plastic PVC pipe, consistent with bottle rockets similar in size to a firecracker. In cross examination, Durkin got the witness to admit gasoline does not a Molotov make, and professionally he knows that molotovs are effectively made with the additional ingredients of motor oil and kerosene, which were not at all present in his findings.
CPD officer on the NATO surveillance team, Oommen Sleeba, testified about items seized from the Bridgeport apartment after the house raid. Defense attorneys were quick to reveal that items seized were not identified as the property of the defendants, as there were 12 people living at the apartment at the time, and that notebooks seized in the raid failed to match defendants’ handwriting samples taken by the State Attorney’s office. A police scanner was seized as well, both legal to own and available on Amazon,
After the jury exited, the day ended with Judge Wilson hearing a motion filed by the state’s attorneys for curative instructions to the jury, in which they claimed that some of the defense lawyers’ mentions of why the terrorism case was being prosecuted in a state rather then a federal court, as well as those related to first amendment issues, prejudiced the jury and necessitated an interruption in court proceedings with instructions regarding these issues. Judge Wilson did say the State may be making a bigger issue of the 1st amendment issues then need be, and corrective measures are being negotiated, with an indication from Judge Wilson that his instructions to the jury will be at the end of the trial and not before.