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Do Terrorism Charges Fit The Crime Of Driving Through A Mall?

CHICAGO (CBS) -- Police said the man who caused chaos inside Woodfield Mall earlier this month when he stormed through Sears and into the concourse faces a judge Tuesday.

But when 22-year-old Javier Garcia stands in court, he'll face a charge some experts are confused by: terror charges.

CBS 2's Chris Tye reports why some aren't so sure the charges fit the crime.

It's not a shock that his attorney said there's no terror connection to his client. But independent experts CBS 2 sought out also think it's a stretch.

It's the rarely used state law that helps prosecutors attach terror charges where you'd least expect them.

Six hours after police said Javier Garcia gave Woodfield Mall its scariest day in years, Schaumburg police quickly ruled one thing out.

"There is no indication that this incident is related to any type of terrorist act." That's according to Schaumburg Police Chief Bill Wolf on September 20

So when Garcia was charged over the weekend with terrorism, it left some questions.

"This doesn't fit any reasonable definiution of terrorism," said Tom Mockaitis of DePaul University. He wrote a book this summer on violent extremism. He said terror charges typically attach to those with extreme ideas.

"Most experts in the field define terrorism as having an ideological driver. In other words, any form of violence will frighten people, no question about that. But there is an ideological motive," Mockaitis said.

The "motive" for Garcia remains murky. But the price tag to clean-up the mall mess isn't.

It exceeded $100,000 and according to Schaumburg "monetary damage greater than $100,000" to five or more businesses can trigger the very rarely used class X felony of terrorism.

The state's attorney's office told CBS 2 one of the last times it was used: The year 2012 and the NATO Three case, when Molotov cocktails were found at a Bridgeport apartment of three men charged with targeting President Obama's campaign headquarters and then-Mayor Rahm Emanuel's home around the time Chicago hosted that massive NATO conference.

The three were later found guilty of possessing incendiary devices and arson. The terror charge didn't stick.

Will it stick in the Garcia case?

"Anything can happen, but this strikes me as a stretch to call this terrorism," Mockaitis said. "That may be another motive of the prosecution: to send a really clear message that these kinds of attacks are unacceptable and we don't want anyone else doing it."

Garcia's attorney said his client suffers from bipolar disorders and paranoid schizophrenia. Police said he searched the internet over 100 times for details on the mall and the Sears store.

And over 20 times for a former teacher of his.

Who that is or why they were singled out may be released in court Tuesday.


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