A Cook County judge presiding over a criminal case stemming from last year’s NATO summit in Chicago ruled today that the state's terrorism law is constitutional.
Judge Thaddeus Wilson said the legislature enacted the anti-terrorism statute in the wake of the Sept. 11 attacks "due to the grave nature and global reach of terrorism." The law was on solid constitutional ground, he said.
Until Cook County prosecutors indicted Brian Church, Jared Chase and Brent Betterly with conspiracy to commit terrorism, the state terrorism statute had been used in only one previous prosecution in Illinois since being enacted a decade earlier.
Attorneys for the three argued the law’s definition of a terrorist act was so vague that it barred lawful conduct protected by the First Amendment such as labor protests or other acts of civil disobedience.
The law defines terrorism as “intent to intimidate or coerce a significant portion of a civilian population,” they wrote in a court filing seeking to dismiss the terrorism-related counts.
“The vague nature of the terms ‘coerce,’ ‘intimidate,’ and ‘significant portion of the civilian population’ allows for the arbitrary and discriminatory enforcement of the law,” the filing said.
Michael Deutsch, a lawyer for the People’s Law Office who represents Church, said the statute also allows police and prosecutors to “arbitrarily pick and choose” whom to charge with terrorism offenses.
Prosecutors have alleged the defendants are members of an anarchist group known as Black Bloc and intended to firebomb targets such as police stations, Mayor Rahm Emanuel's home and President Barack Obama's downtown re-election campaign headquarters last May.