Ongoing NATO 3 Support Needed

The NATO 3 will be sentenced at a hearing on April 25, 2014. In the meantime they could use your ongoing support:

  • Write to ask Judge Wilson for leniency in sentencing. Letters must be submitted by March 30. More info and a template are available here.
  • Write letters to the NATO 3 offering support and encouragement:

Brent Betterly
#2012-0519001
PO Box 089002
Chicago IL 60608

Brian Church
#2012-0519002
PO Box 089002
Chicago IL 60608

Jared Chase
#2012-0519003
PO Box 089002
Chicago IL 60608

  • Donate to their legal and commissary fund.

#NATO3 Trial Attendance Guidelines Announced

The Cook County Sheriff’s Office has issued a press release regarding public access to the NATO 3 trial, which is set to begin on Tuesday, January 21st.

The full text is copied below or available as a PDF here.

The highlights:

  • Members of the general public will be allowed to bring pen and paper to court to take notes, but no bags, purses, or similar items will be allowed. Additionally, cell phones are not permitted for the general public inside Cook County Courthouses.
  • Anyone wishing to attend the trial will be required to sign up one business day in advance and submit to a background check looking for warrants and orders of protection against anyone involved in the trial. You may sign up with a photo ID in the lobby of the courthouse at 26th and California between 2 and 5pm each day.

Full text:

Sheriff’s Office Announces Spectator Sign-Up Procedure for People VS. Church, Chase & Betterly

Members of the general public who wish to observe the upcoming People VS. Church, Chase & Betterly Criminal trial will be required to register for a seat in advance, the Cook County Sheriff’s Office announced today.

The trial is set to begin Tuesday, Jan. 21, 2014, at the George N. Leighton Criminal Courthouse, 2650 S. California Ave., Chicago. The defendants are Brian Church, 22, of Ft. Lauderdale, Florida; Jared Chase, 25, of Keene, New Hampshire; and Brent Betterly, 25, of Oakland Park, Florida. The three men were charged in the days prior to the May 2012 NATO Summit that was held in Chicago. All three defendants face the following charges: four counts possession of an incendiary device; one count providing material support for terrorism; one count conspiracy to commit terrorism; and one count solicitation to commit arson.

Seating for the general public is limited, but will be available each day court will be in session. All seating will be on a first-come, first-served basis.

All members of the general public interested in viewing the trial must sign up in person in the lobby of the Criminal Courthouse the day before they wish to be in court. To sign up, interested parties must register their name with a Court Deputy in the lobby of the courthouse between 2 p.m. and 5 p.m. for the next day’s court session. For example, if you wish to observe the trial on a Wednesday, you must come to the courthouse on Tuesday to add your name to the list. Individuals are not allowed to register anyone other than themselves. Each spectator must present a valid, government-issued photo ID such as a driver’s license, a state ID, or passport.

Anyone wishing to observe the trial on a Monday is required to register the Friday before.

As this trial is scheduled to begin on Tuesday, Jan. 21, 2014, and Monday, Jan. 20 is a court holiday, the first day of Spectator Registration will be on Friday, Jan. 17, 2014, from 2 p.m. – 5 p.m.

Spectators are reminded to arrive one hour prior to the start of trial daily. This will allow ample time to pass through the main courthouse security area as well as complete the check-in process outside the trial courtroom before being seated. All spectators are required to be seated in the trial courtroom 20 minutes prior to the start of trial each day.

Spectators will not be allowed to bring cell phones, bags, packages, briefcases, purses, or boxes of any kind into the trial courtroom or wear any type of clothing with prejudicial or inflammatory logos, per the Judge’s Decorum Orders.

Anyone who causes a disruption, outburst, noise, or distraction will be immediately removed from the trial courtroom. Any violation may result in the violator being held in contempt of court and/or being subject to monetary sanctions according to Illinois civil and criminal law.

Introducing… #OpValentine 2014!

#OpValentine wall art

As many of you know, #OpPenPal began as #OpValentine approximately one year ago, when a group of activists banded together to encourage the people of the interwebz to send love via snail mail to our imprisoned comrades for Valentine’s day. (Not to buy in to the corporate holiday, but to use it as an excuse to shed light on those who most need our love and support.) We were amazed at the enthusiastic response and decided to keep the project going year-round.

Through the past year we’ve seen friends arrested, convicted, and sentenced – but also some who had charges dropped, won cases and, when very lucky, have been freed. It’s been an incredible journey and we appreciate everyone who has joined us along the way.

We have great plans for expanding our prisoner support efforts in 2014 and we hope everyone reading this will continue to play an active role. In the meantime: the next month is dedicated to #OpValentine!

opval013

Being a part of #OpValentine is easy:

1) To find a prisoner (or multiple prisoners) to write to, simply take a look at our mailing list, or check out lists posted by other groups such as the Denver ABC or Black and Pink.

2) Send your selected prisoner(s) a postcard, valentine, or letter. Keep in mind that fun things like stickers, glitter, and glue/tape are considered contraband in many facilities. Be creative and find ways to make your cards and letters bright and cheerful without such add-ons.

3) Some suggestions: Prisoners love hearing news, local updates, funny stories, or pretty much anything interesting. They also love photos, so feel free to include some (printed on regular computer paper), or use an approved service like FlikShop or FotoPigeon.

4) Tweet photos of your valentines to us at @OpPenPal using the hashtag #OpValentine to help us build a photo gallery. (See last year’s badass gallery here.) All photos will be reposted anonymously and without attribution.

5) Tell all your friends!

So much love!

Think of this as a backward compatible interweb solidarity action. A snail mail DDoS of prison mail rooms across the country, if you will. For the next month let us commit to flooding these soulless facilities with messages of love, hope, support and solidarity. Every letter makes a difference. EVERY. SINGLE. ONE.

We do not forgive injustice.
We do not forget our imprisoned comrades.
Expect Mail. Lots of it.

#NATO3 Trial is Approaching – UPDATES

Free the NATO 3

Today was the first day of jury selection for the NATO 3 trial. Opening statements for the trial are expected to begin on Tuesday, January 21st.

The prosecution also dropped two “unlawful use of weapons” charges this morning. The defendants will now face a total of nine counts at trial instead of eleven.

We will post daily updates as the trial gets underway. In the meantime, you can help by donating to the NATO 3 defense fund.

Send the NATO 3 a card or note today to let them know we stand in solidarity as they fight these charges:

Brent Betterly
#2012-0519001
PO Box 089002
Chicago IL 60608

Brian Church
#2012-0519002
PO Box 089002
Chicago IL 60608

Jared Chase
#2012-0519003
PO Box 089002
Chicago IL 60608

[NOTE: Two defendants in separate but related cases accepted non-cooperating plea agreements which allowed them to be released before their trials would have even started. The remaining three defendants face more serious charges and are proceeding to trial after being held in Cook County Jail for the past 20 months.]

Migs of the NATO 5 has been released!

Migs of the NATO 5 was released earlier today. You can read more about the circumstances behind his triumphant release here.

This is how big he was smiling as we drove away from the prison:

Migs release

And it was also our first opportunity to get a photo of his NATO 5 tattoo, gained during his time at Cook County Jail:

Migs NATO 5 tattoo

You can donate to his release fund or continue to write to Migs via our PO Box:
OpPenPal
PO Box 409220
Chicago IL 60640

Thanks for your continued support!

URGENT: Funds Needed For Migs’ (NATO 5) Early Prison Release

This weekend we received word that Mark Neiweem (aka Migs) of the NATO 5 has had 30 days good time restored and will be released from prison this week, instead of mid-January. While this is welcome and exciting news, it also means his support team has only a few days to prepare for his return home instead of several weeks.

Funds are urgently needed to buy clothing, shoes, hygiene products, food, and other basic necessities for Migs upon his release. Donations are being accepted here: https://www.wepay.com/donations/migs-prison-release-fund

BACKGROUND:

Migs is one of the NATO 5, a group of Occupy activists arrested in the days leading up to the May 2012 NATO summit protests in Chicago as the result of undercover law enforcement infiltration. Migs was arrested in a spectacular snatch-and-grab as he was leaving a restaurant. He was charged with attempted possession and solicitation of an incendiary device and was facing up to 30 years in prison as well as a consecutive sentence for a probation violation charge. The state alleged that he attempted to get undercover Chicago police officer “Mo” to buy materials for him for constructing a PVC pipe bomb.

On April 11, 2013, Migs accepted a non-cooperating plea deal to the probation violation charge and to solicitation and attempted possession of an explosive or incendiary device. (You can read about his decision to accept the plea agreement here.) He was sentenced to a 3 years in a state prison and received credit for time served and other reductions in the duration of his incarceration for good behavior, ultimately reducing his sentence to 18 months with 11 months served.

Migs is no stranger to the Chicago cops, as he has been prominent in the Chicago-area anarchist community for some years now. In addition to being targeted for preemptive arrest, he was initially denied vital medical treatment after being arrested and, later was forced to choose between going to the hospital and talking with his attorney. During his time in Cook County Jail, he was singled out by the guards and beaten severely, requiring hospitalization. Early on in his incarceration, he was cornered in his cell by guards who took pictures of his anarchist tattoos and tried to force him to sign an admission of being part of the “black bloc anarchists” gang. He steadfastly refused to sign. Migs’ attorney complained about the ongoing harassment and targeting of him in open court, but the harassment continued.

Migs has continued to experience harassment and abuse because of his politics while at Pontiac Correctional Center, where he has served the remainder of his sentence. Prison officials wrote him up for disciplinary infractions for possessing literature with anarchist information and symbols. They subsequently revoked several months of his “good time” (time credited to his sentence for good behavior) and have held him in solitary confinement since July 13, 2013.

Activists, supporters, and other concerned community members joined together this summer to put pressure on the state to release Migs on time and not penalize him for reading and writing about a political ideology. The campaigns on his behalf, paired with legal appeals, have now resulted in Migs being released only one month later than originally expected. The final victory this past week means Migs will serve only 19 months total, instead of the full three years prison officials had threatened him with.

Migs has been steadfast in his convictions throughout this ordeal, and we have been steadfast in our support. Help us bring him home on wonderfully short notice: https://www.wepay.com/donations/migs-prison-release-fund

Bitcoins accepted here: 1Aq8pFMcNfZqBYQ2jNhnYgwoME3o3buRYi

Send a welcome home card to Migs:
OpPenPal
PO Box 409220
Chicago IL 60640

Write to Yuri, an anarchist still being held in solitary at Pontiac:
Patrick Owens M36667
Pontiac Correctional Center
PO Box 99
Pontiac IL 61764

READ MORE ABOUT MIGS:
Prisoner Sent to Solitary for Having “Copious Amounts of Anarchist Publications” (via Vice magazine)
Open Communiqué by Mark Neiweem (via NATO5support)
Prisoner Support: Every Moment A Crisis, Every Moment A Gift (via Suicide Girls blog)