CHICAGO – 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.
But attorneys for the two men said the charges were manufactured by a pair police informants or undercover officers they know as "Mo" and "Gloves," and again accused authorities of trumping up a case to scare protesters in town for the summit.
"He is being targeted because of his beliefs," defense attorney Molly Armour said of her client, Sebastian Senakiewicz. "These charges are extremely sensational."
The Cook County State's Attorney's office charged 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. Both men were arrested Thursday.
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. Defense attorney Sarah Gelsomino said after the hearing the bond amounts were "punitively high."
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.
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.
Police Superintendent Garry McCarthy said he didn't know if Senakiewicz and Neiweem had any connection to Church, Chase or Betterly.
But defense attorneys said Sunday that a common thread is that "Mo" and "Gloves" befriended all the charged activists and appeared to steer them into activities that could be perceived as illegal.
Gelsomino said "Mo" and "Gloves" began befriending activists in the Chicago area in early May and were present when Church, Chase or Betterly were arrested. She said many activists in Chicago for the NATO protests knew "Mo" and "Gloves" and are now worried they could also be arrested.
Critics say filing terrorism-related charges against 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.
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."
Kris Hermes, an attorney with the National Lawyers Guild, which has represented many of the activists, said the charges against Senakiewicz and Neiweem are also an "effort to frighten people and to diminish the size of the demonstrations."
"Even if charges are dropped or reduced later, they will have succeeded in spreading fear and intimidation," Hermes said.
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.