An Illinois State Police chemist testified today that the method used by three out-of-state men to build Molotov cocktails was more dangerous than the typical technique, a point defense attorneys raised as they sought to portray their clients as “stupid.”
Brian Church, Jared Chase and Brent Betterly are on trial for plotting terrorists acts in the days leading up to the 2012 NATO summit here. The three were arrested after assembling four Molotov cocktails by pouring gasoline into four empty beer bottles and stuffing sections of a cut-up black bandana in the top as a fuse.
Under questioning by Chase’s attorney, state police chemist Alan Osoba said the explosives made by the three men, known as the NATO 3, were more combustible than the typical Molotov mixture of motor oil and kerosene.
“If we’re talking about amateurs, we’re talking about gasoline in a bottle, isn’t that right?” asked Thomas Anthony Durkin, Chase’s attorney.
Osoba, who spent 17 days testing substances recovered from the bottles and rags to confirm they contained gasoline, also said when asked by prosecutors that all Molotov cocktails are dangerous.
Jurors this morning were also shown footage from security cameras at the nearby BP gas station where Chase walked with one of the undercover officers to buy less than a gallon of gas for $3.75, paying in cash.
The videos show Chase walking to the station across the street from the Deering District police station on May 16, 2012, with the undercover police officer and then setting a plastic red gas can near one of the pumps.
Chase walked in alone to pay, filled the container with gasoline and then handed it to the undercover officer as they walked away.
Abdullah Norat, the gas station manager at the time, testified that a day earlier Church walked into his station trying to fill an empty one-gallon milk jug with gas. Norat refused, saying it wasn’t a proper container. Church told him he needed to buy gas for his lawnmower, he said.
But Norat didn’t tell anyone about the encounter until earlier this month when he was interviewed by prosecutors. The security camera footage that would’ve captured it was erased within a month after it happened, Norat testified.
His testimony then took a turn, though, as Norat told jurors he’d written about the security video on Reddit, which he described as an “online buffet.” He also said he planned to post the video to his YouTube account but ultimately did not, in part because he worried media companies would “steal it” and use it to make money.
Norat acknowledged posing as different characters on the popular Reddit site.
“One day I can be a doctor, another I can be a female. I can be a black guy,” he testified, telling how he posted different topics in hopes of winning positive feedback from fellow Reddit users.
“You have a fantasy life that you live out on the Internet?” asked Michael Deutsch, one of Church’s attorneys.
Norat agreed but said it doesn’t mean he can’t separate fantasy from reality.
Prosecutors are expected to call one more witness this afternoon before ending for the day.