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Second jury deadlocked in Sears terrorism trial

The jury is deadlocked in the second trial of six men accused of plotting to destroy Chicago's Sears Tower and blow up FBI offices.
/ Source: The Associated Press

Jurors remained deadlocked on Friday in the second trial of six men accused of plotting to destroy Chicago's Sears Tower and blow up FBI offices.

The jurors sent a note on their 10th day of deliberations Friday that they could not agree on verdicts for the six defendants. U.S. District Judge Joan Lenard ordered the jury to keep trying.

The first jury in the "Liberty City Seven" case reached a stalemate on the six defendants. A seventh man was acquitted after the first trial, which ended in December.

If convicted of terrorism-related conspiracy charges, the men face up to 70 years in prison.

Alleged ringleader Narseal Batiste testified he was not serious about terrorism and was only trying to con $50,000 out of an FBI informant posing as an al-Qaida operative.

At war with U.S. government?
Prosecutors, however, painted a different picture.

War with the U.S. government was at the heart of a terrorist plot to destroy the tower and offices, said Assistant U.S. Attorney Richard Gregorie during closing arguments.

"It's really not a complicated case," Gregorie said. "These are terrorists inside the United States. They are going to try to take over the United States."

There was no evidence the men ever acquired any explosives, building blueprints or other items needed to pull off an attack on the 110-story Sears Tower, according to earlier testimony. They did take surveillance pictures and video of the Miami FBI office and other buildings, which prosecutors said was key evidence of intent and support for al-Qaida.

Batiste, 34, ran a struggling construction business and also led an organization in Miami's impoverished Liberty City neighborhood called the Moorish Science Temple. Based at a building dubbed the "Embassy," the group does not recognize the U.S. government's authority and blended elements of Judaism, Christianity and Islam.

Plot for money, or power?
On some of the FBI tapes, Batiste's voice is heard claiming he has divine power and describing the U.S. government as "the devil" that must be eradicated starting with a plot "as great or greater" than the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.

"We're going to kill all the devils we can," Batiste said on one FBI intercept.

Gregorie scoffed at Batiste's insistence that it was all a scam to get money for his business and to do charitable work in the community.

"This isn't about love, about helping the community. This is about power," he said.