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Chicago jury deliberates in alleged NATO summit attack plot

By Mary Wisniewski

CHICAGO (Reuters) - A Chicago jury began deliberations on Thursday in the trial of three men who face terrorism charges for allegedly plotting to attack high-profile targets during a 2012 NATO summit.

A prosecutor said in closing arguments in Cook County Circuit Court that the so-called "NATO 3" were bent on mayhem. Defense attorneys described the three as drunken braggarts who had talked big to impress undercover officers.

The men are accused of planning attacks during the Chicago meeting of North Atlantic Treaty Organization officials using firebombs, targeting police stations and President Barack Obama's re-election headquarters, along with other locations.

"While Chicago was on the world stage, their plan was to light a police officer on fire," Cook County Assistant State's Attorney Tom Biesty told jurors. "By attacking the police they planned to attack us all."

But Thomas Durkin, attorney for defendant Jared Chase, described the three as "goofs" who "can't even agree on what to have for breakfast."

"If these people can be labeled terrorists, we're all in trouble," he told jurors before they began deliberations.

The trio - Brian Jacob Church, 22, and Brent Betterly, 25, both of Florida, and Chase, 29, of New Hampshire - are charged with conspiracy to commit terrorism under a state anti-terrorism law adopted after the September 11, 2001, attacks.

Cook County Circuit Court Judge Thaddeus Wilson late on Thursday evening dismissed the 12-member jury, which had not reached a decision after about three hours of deliberations. The group was to return on Friday morning at 9 a.m. local time.

The case marks the first time Illinois prosecutors had invoked the conspiracy charge. They could face decades in prison if convicted.

Church's attorney, Michael Deutsch, told jurors the case hinged on whether the men intended to intimidate a significant portion of the civilian population, and said his client had done nothing but talk.

"Their intent was to impress these older undercover officers," he said.

Prosecutors have painted the men as anarchists bent on causing mayhem, offering testimony from undercover Chicago police officers to show that the defendants were "ready for war."

Chicago police, along with the FBI and the Secret Service, raided their safe house, an apartment on Chicago's South Side, and recovered pipe bomb instructions, an improvised mortar made from PVC piping, a crossbow, knives, throwing stars, a map of Chicago and four firebombs, prosecutors said.

Defense attorneys have said the men were more focused on getting high than being violent. They said the defendants were egged on by undercover officers and the charges were politically motivated to justify the millions of dollars spent on security for the summit.

(Editing by David Bailey, Sharon Bernstein, Eric M. Johnson, Mohammad Zargham, Jonathan Oatis and Lisa Shumaker)

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