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141,274 Posts
Discussion Starter · #1 ·
A towering career in skyscraper safety
By Jon Anderson
Chicago Tribune staff reporter
Published April 25, 2006

Well, there was the time that Spider-Man tried to climb the Sears Tower.

And another night when an activist from Greenpeace started up the skyscraper with a banner that said, "Save the Whales."

Both were situations that called for some delicacy on the part of building management.

As Philip Chinn put it the other day, e-mailing some memories from his retirement home in Florida, "Thank God for Leroy Brown."

Chinn was the building's general manager at the time. Brown was the late-night security supervisor.

With Spider-Man, Chinn recalled, "some of the macho younger members of the security staff wanted to block him with the window-washing equipment and then remove a window and grab him. Luckily, Leroy prevented such antics."

Similarly, the Greenpeace climber was allowed to descend peacefully--and safely. That, of course, is not how the average day goes for a security supervisor in a building the size of the Sears Tower.

Mostly, notes Brown, it's a matter "of being as vigilant as you can be."

Brown is, as they say, a noticing kind of person.

For 33 years, he has been involved in some aspect of security at the 110-story Sears Tower. He started on Feb. 1, 1973, when construction crews were still pushing upwards from the 88th floor, and that part of downtown, less developed than it is now, had more than its share of vagrants.

One of Brown's early duties was politely but firmly to evict those who sneaked in to camp out.

These days, with tightened security and screeners at every entry, there are new challenges.

"You learn to read people," Brown said last week, in an interview. "You get to know who belongs in the building and who doesn't. But you also learn to be as friendly as you can. You say, `Can I help you?' instead of `Hey, where are you going?'"

This week will be Brown's last at the 1,450-foot high tower, a mini city where 50,000 people a day come and go.

Brown, 62, will retire Friday. But it's not like he won't have anything to keep him busy.

He is the deputy mayor of the southwest suburb of Bolingbrook, where he has been a village trustee for 15 years. He hosts a cable access show on teen issues, is a district chairman for the Boy Scouts and is active in church groups. He's been married for 40 years to his high school sweetheart.

They have two sons.

But, say Sears Tower staffers, he will be much missed downtown.

"Sometimes, people are intimidated by him. He's a big guy. He has this powerful stature," said Michael Querfurth, who will take over Brown's post next week. "But when they meet him, they find he's a real genuine nice person, easy to talk to, good to deal with."

Brown will be feted Wednesday at a retirement party in the skyscraper's 99th-floor conference center.

"Leroy knows everybody's name," said Barbara Carley, the tower's managing director. "He's made this building friendly, instead of being a big fortress."

31,846 Posts
The thread title is missleading.

141,274 Posts
Discussion Starter · #3 ·
Tenn. woman arrested with gun at Chicago's Sears Tower
5 July 2007

CHICAGO (AP) - A 56-year-old Tennessee woman was found carrying a loaded revolver at the Sears Tower on Thursday, authorities said.

Stephanie Warren of Memphis is charged with one count each of unlawful use of a weapon, failure to register a firearm in the state of Illinois and not having an Illinois firearm owner's identification card.

She was taken into custody after she tried to visit the skyscraper's public viewing area with a .38-caliber handgun in her purse and it set off a metal detector.

Tennessee allows its citizens to carry a handgun if they have a permit, which Warren has, police said. She was unaware that she wasn't allowed to carry a handgun in the state of Illinois.

Warren has a Tennessee permit to carry the gun.

141,274 Posts
Discussion Starter · #4 ·
College student pleads guilty to hoax alleging bomb threat on Chicago's Sears Tower
12 July 2007

BOSTON (AP) - A man who misled U.S. authorities into thinking that a Muslim student he met on a social networking Web site planned a terrorist attack on the Sears Tower in Chicago pleaded guilty to the hoax.

Adam Hart, 22, pleaded guilty in U.S. District Court in Boston on Wednesday to one count of maliciously conveying false information. He is scheduled to be sentenced on Oct. 16, and could be ordered to serve up to 10 years in prison.

Hart was a student at the University of Massachusetts-Dartmouth in April 2006 when he sent an e-mail to the National Security Agency claiming that a University of Chicago student he met on Facebook Inc.'s popular online site was planning to detonate a bomb at the landmark skyscraper.

The hoax prompted increased security at the building and an investigation of the person Hart identified.

The investigation revealed that Hart had sent e-mails containing racial slurs to the man in the days before he contacted the NSA.

A call to Hart's lawyer was not immediately returned on Thursday.

141,274 Posts
Discussion Starter · #5 ·
Defense opens in trial of men who allegedly plotted to bomb Chicago's Sears Tower
6 November 2007

MIAMI (AP) - The leader of a group of men accused of plotting to topple Chicago's Sears Tower testified in his own defense Tuesday, describing his financial struggles to build a construction business and saying he wanted to uplift people in Miami's downtrodden Liberty City neighborhood.

Narseal Batiste, 33, referred only in passing to the terrorism allegations, which include an alleged conspiracy to take down the skyscraper and bomb FBI offices in several U.S. cities. Batiste was to continue testifying Wednesday and could directly address the prosecution case, which is based on dozens of FBI audio and video tapes.

Batiste said Tuesday he was unsuccessful at attracting financial support for his purported outreach program -- a nonprofit entity called Universal Divine Saviours -- and suggested this failure was at the root of his legal troubles.

"Quite frankly, if we had received donations, I probably wouldn't be sitting here right now," Batiste said on the witness stand while being questioned by his attorney, Ana M. Jhones.

A key defense claim is that the so-called "Liberty City Seven" only went along with talk of terror plots in hopes of getting thousands of dollars from the man they knew as "Brother Mohammed," who had promised to help them.

The alleged conspiracy never got beyond the initial stages, but Batiste and his six codefendants were videotaped by the FBI taking an oath to al-Qaida led by a government informant posing as an emissary from Osama bin Laden's terror organization. All seven face up to 70 years in prison if convicted of all four terrorism-related conspiracy charges.

But Batiste said he never asked a convenience store operator he knew as Abbas -- another FBI informant -- to use connections in Yemen to obtain money in fall 2005 from al-Qaida or its leadership. Abbas previously testified that such a request was made.

"I never asked him for Osama bin Laden to give me any money whatsoever," Batiste testified. "The only thing I knew about Osama bin Laden was that I read on the news -- that he was affiliated with the al-Qaida terrorist organization."

Batiste said he and the other six men sunk most of their savings into a dilapidated building they repaired and dubbed "The Embassy," which Batiste said he intended to make into a "temple" and center for his supposed outreach program. Batiste said his religious interest came from a long line of family members who were pastors, including his mother.

"That was the spark to the level of inspiration that I had, that I carried throughout my life," he said.

Batiste was leader of a Miami chapter of a religious sect known as the Moorish Science Temple, which among other things does not recognize the authority of the U.S. government.

Earlier Tuesday, several witnesses described Batiste as a hardworking and trustworthy construction contractor.

Witness Michael Sharpe testified that he hired Batiste several times to do work at his Fort Lauderdale home, including removal of an enormous ficus tree downed by Hurricane Wilma in October 2005.

Sharpe described Batiste and the men working with him as steady and respectful, adding that he had no problem leaving them unsupervised at times.

141,274 Posts
Discussion Starter · #6 ·
Jurors deadlock on 6 of 7 charged in Sears Tower plot; 1 cleared
13 December 2007

MIAMI (AP) - To the prosecution, the so-called Liberty City Seven were aspiring terrorists with plans to strike at Chicago's Sears Tower and elsewhere, men caught on tape swearing allegiance to Osama bin Laden. To the defense they were dupes, egged on by a government informant posing as an al-Qaida emissary.

After a two-month trial and nine days of deliberations, jurors could not agree on which side was right. They acquitted one defendant but deadlocked on the rest.

"There was a lot of evidence, and people see evidence different ways," said jury foreman Jeff Agron, a 46-year-old teacher and lawyer. "My personal belief is that there may have been sufficient evidence on some of them as to some of the counts."

U.S. District Judge Joan Lenard said a new jury would be chosen beginning Jan. 7 for the remaining six, including alleged ringleader Narseal Batiste. Agron said he wasn't sure if another jury will do any better.

"It's possible. It is a very difficult case. I don't know what will happen," Agron said.

The trial's end was a stinging defeat for the Bush administration, which had seized on the case to illustrate the dangers of homegrown terrorism and trumpet the government's post-Sept. 11 success in infiltrating and smashing terrorism plots in their very earliest stages.

Acquitted was 32-year-old Lyglenson Lemorin, who had been accused of being a "soldier" for Batiste. Lemorin wept and buried his face in his hands when the verdict was read. His lawyer, Joel DeFabio, said he and his client were "ecstatic."

Lemorin, a legal U.S. resident originally from Haiti, was subject to an immigration hold and would not be immediately released, DeFabio said.

Prosecutors said the Liberty City Seven -- so named because they operated out of a warehouse in Miami's blighted Liberty City section -- swore allegiance to al-Qaida and hoped to forge an alliance to carry out bombings against America's tallest skyscraper, the FBI's Miami office and other federal buildings.

The group never actually made contact with al-Qaida. Instead, a paid FBI informant known as Brother Mohammed posed as an al-Qaida emissary, with another FBI informant acting as go-between.

Each of the seven was charged with four terrorism-related conspiracy charges that carry a combined maximum of 70 years in prison.

Agron said the jury took four votes but was split roughly evenly between guilt and innocence for the other six men. They spent hours viewing and listening to FBI recordings of meetings and conversations involving Batiste and the others, he said.

The jury twice sent notes to the judge indicating they could not reach verdicts but were told to keep trying. Another note came Thursday afternoon.

"We believe no further progress can be made," said the note, read by Lenard in court before the mistrial was declared.

Agron said the evidence was weakest against Lemorin, who had moved with his wife and children to Atlanta and gotten a job at a shopping mall after splitting with Batiste months before the group was arrested. In a statement to the FBI, Lemorin said he never wanted to be associated with al-Qaida and that he knew "nothing good would come from this."

The defense portrayed the seven men as hapless figures who were either manipulated and entrapped by the FBI or went along with the plot to con "Mohammed" out of $50,000.

The group never actually made contact with al-Qaida and never acquired any weapons or explosives. Prosecutors said no attack was imminent, acknowledging that the alleged terror cell was "more aspirational than operational."

But then-Attorney General Alberto Gonzales said after the arrests in mid-2006 that the group was emblematic of the "smaller, more loosely defined cells who are not affiliated with al-Qaida, but who are inspired by a violent jihadist message."

And U.S. Attorney R. Alexander Acosta of Miami said: "Our mission is to disrupt these cells if possible before they acquire the capability to implement their plans."

The mistrial marked the second recent setback for the Bush administration in a high-profile terrorism case. In October, jurors in Dallas were split on charges against the leaders of a Muslim charity -- the Holy Land Foundation for Relief and Development -- accused of financing the Palestinian group Hamas.

The Liberty City Seven, who included immigrants from Haiti and the Dominican Republic, adhered to a sect called the Moorish Science Temple that blends elements of Islam, Christianity and Judaism.

The government case was built largely on FBI surveillance video and some 12,000 telephone intercepts.

One key piece of evidence was a video of the seven men taking an oath of loyalty to al-Qaida and Osama bin Laden in a March 2006 ceremony.

Also, the group's leader, 33-year-old Batiste, was overheard talking about starting a "full ground war" against the U.S. government by bringing down the 110-story Sears Tower -- an attack he said would be "as good or greater than 9/11."

Batiste also supplied the informant with detailed wish lists that included assault rifles, bulletproof vests, uniforms, motorcycles and $50,000 in cash, prosecutors said.

However, Batiste testified he faked interest in the plot and really only wanted the money.

Members of the group also took reconnaissance photos of the FBI office and downtown federal buildings at the informant's request.

Defense lawyers contended that the informant and an overzealous FBI were responsible for pushing the alleged conspiracy along.

"This was all written, directed and produced by the FBI," said defense attorney Albert Levin.
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