UPDATE: Feds link Ford County trio to Minn. mosque bombing, attempted Champaign clinic bombing

UPDATE: Feds link Ford County trio to Minn. mosque bombing, attempted Champaign clinic bombing

UPDATE, 6:45 p.m.:

URBANA — Four Ford County men are in federal custody for possession of a machine gun, a charge intended to hold them while the government seeks additional charges that allegedly link three of them to a mosque bombing in Minnesota and the attempted bombing of a women’s health clinic in Champaign last year.

The four are Michael Hari, 47, Michael McWhorter, 29, Joe Morris, 22, and Ellis “E.J.” Mack, 18, all of Clarence, a small community in southeastern Ford County about halfway between Paxton and Rankin and about 35 miles northeast of Urbana.

Hari, a former Ford County sheriff’s deputy and one-time Libertarian candidate for sheriff, is believed to have been the leader of a homegrown domestic terrorism group to which the other men belonged.

In a hearing Tuesday afternoon, Magistrate Judge Eric Long remarked that the “weight of the evidence is fairly strong” and ordered Hari held until trial. Both Hari and Morris made initial appearances while McWhorter and Mack are supposed to be in court Wednesday.

As authorities in the Central District of Illinois were announcing their arrests, federal prosecutors in the District of Minnesota were doing the same. Hari, Morris and McWhorter have been charged in criminal complaints in that state with arson for the Aug. 5 firebombing of the Dar al-Farooq Islamic Center in Bloomington, Minn.

A 15-page probable-cause affidavit in support of their arrests linked those three to the August bombing that happened  in Bloomington during early-morning prayers while people were present, and the Nov. 7 attempted firebombing of the Women’s Health Practice at 2125 S. Neil St., C.

In the Minnesota explosion, five men were in the mosque about 5 a.m. when a bomb exploded, doing extensive damage to the building but apparently not injuring any people.

In the Champaign bombing attempt, an employee arrived for work about 7:30 a.m. on Nov. 7, discovered a broken window and found a piece of PVC pipe with thermite, a pyrotechnic compound, inside. The pipe had duct tape on one end and a plastic cap on the other. A bomb technician concluded the device, found in a surgical room with oxygen tanks, was intended to burn. However, it did not.

Among the highlights of the detail-filled affidavit:

— In late December, Ford County Sheriff Mark Doran provided photos to the FBI that he had received from a confidential source showing weapons and bomb-making supplies in the Paxton home of Hari’s parents, with whom Hari frequently stays because his own home in Clarence was said not to have running water or electricity.

— In late January, a second confidential source provided authorities with information that Hari, McWhorter and Morris were responsible for the mosque and health clinic bombings.

The source told FBI agents that Hari had recruited him to be part of his group and that the source had seen fully automatic illegal firearms, video jammers and Tannerite, a brand of exploding target used for firearms practice, locked in a safe in Hari’s office in Clarence.

The source heard Morris talk about throwing a black-powder pipe bomb at the Minnesota mosque. Morris allegedly said Hari was to pay them $18,000 for their participation in the bombing. Morris also told the source that he made and placed the incendiary device at the women’s clinic but it did not go off.

With information from the source, authorities learned that Hari had rented a black truck in Champaign on July 27 that was returned on Aug. 6, the day after the Minnesota mosque bombing. The truck, similar to one seen on video leaving the mosque parking lot just after the bombing, had more than 3,000 miles on it. Round-trip distance from Champaign to Bloomington, Minn., is about 1,040 miles.

— In mid-February, the source provided FBI agents with pictures of items in Hari’s parents’ garage, including a photo of the “Anarchist’s Handbook,” which has instructions on how to make bombs. The photos also showed tools such as a drill that could be used to make pipe bombs.

— A few days later, on Feb. 19, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives received an anonymous tip that there were explosive devices in a shed on Main Street in Clarence. The residents living there consented to a search. In their shed, authorities found “multiple explosive devices” that the occupants said they had no idea were there and that they suspected Hari had placed there.

Hari is currently charged in Ford County Circuit Court with the assault of the man on whose property the devices were found. That stemmed from an incident in July 2017 in which Hari allegedly argued with the man and held a pellet gun to the man’s head.

Hari was arrested Tuesday morning as he made his way to a court appearance in Paxton on that case.

— On Feb. 27, during a canvass of Hari’s neighborhood, agents found four shotguns and four assault rifles in a camouflage bag, a hard gun case, a green plate carrier with soft armor and a bandolier with several 12-gauge bullets at the home of McWhorter’s brother.

Three of the four assault rifles were found to be fully automatic, meeting the definition of a machine gun. The brother told police that Hari and Morris had dropped off a bag at his home a few days earlier. He said Hari told him police would probably want to talk to him (Hari) and asked the brother if he would hold the guns until after that happened.

As police were interviewing the brother Feb. 27, Hari arrived at the home asking to speak to the brother. Agents turned him away.

The brother also told agents that on prior occasions, he was at Hari’s office when Hari asked him if he wanted to see “science stuff” and showed him a piece of braided wire that when combined with a fluid, burned for a few minutes.

On a different occasion, Hari reportedly showed him containers of liquid and powder that Hari claimed were supposed to “burn really hot” when added to fire.

And on yet another occasion, the brother saw Hari cleaning some of the same weapons taken from his house Feb. 27. Hari asked him not to tell anyone about them because “they are lightly modified, two are semi-auto and one is fully auto.”

— On March 10, McWhorter was interviewed by an FBI agent and denied knowledge of explosive or incendiary devices but said he knew of four shotguns and assault rifles belonging to Hari. He knew three of them to be illegal and admitted that he helped Hari drill an assault rifle to make it capable of fully automatic firing. McWhorter said Hari instructed him how to do it and the work was done in Hari’s parents’ garage.

McWhorter told agents that he, Hari, Morris and Mack all knew the weapons were fully automatic because they had fired them outside of Paxton. The weapons were stored in a vault in Hari’s office in Clarence.

McWhorter admitted taking the guns to his brother’s house in a camouflage bag and a black plastic case.

— McWhorter admitted he helped in the attempted bombing of the Women’s Health Practice in Champaign in November. He said he, Hari and Morris were in a truck that Hari rented in Champaign and that the device they used had been made in Clarence by Hari.

McWhorter confirmed that it was Morris who was dropped off in the middle of the night and that Morris smashed the window and threw the device in.

— McWhorter also admitted taking part in the August bombing of the Bloomington, Minn., mosque. He said he, Hari and Morris drove there in a truck rented in Champaign and that each had specific roles.

Hari was the driver, Morris broke the window with a sledgehammer and McWhorter threw the bomb in and fled before it exploded. McWhorter claimed it was Hari’s idea to target the mosque, not intending to kill anyone but to “scare them (Muslims) out of the country.”

— McWhorter also admitted that he, Hari, Morris and Mack participated in a home invasion in Indiana in December 2017 intending to rob a Hispanic drug dealer of cash while posing as police with a search warrant. They had the automatic weapons but did not get cash from the man.

— McWhorter also said the group committed three Walmart robberies in Illinois and that he, Hari and Morris planted the explosive devices on Hari’s neighbor’s property that police found in the shed Feb. 19.

— Interviewed separately from McWhorter on March 10, Mack admitted he shot the automatic weapons outside of Paxton, admitted participating in a home invasion in Indiana and said he was provided with a 12-gauge shotgun to use during it.

Mack also admitted participating in an attempted robbery that he said happened at a Walmart in Mattoon but that agents said matched a report they had received from a Walmart in Mount Vernon.

Hari has a storied history in Ford County, including a 2005 conviction for abducting his own children.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Jason Bohm told Long that the government wanted all four men detained  pending trial and that a grand jury is expected to meet in early April to indict the group.

* * * * *

Original story, published 4:25 p.m.:

URBANA — Three men from Clarence were arrested Tuesday for charges related to an August bombing of a mosque in Bloomington, Minn., and an attempted bombing in November at the Women’s Health Practice in Champaign.

Michael Hari, 47, Michael McWhorter, 29, and Joe Morris, 22, are all from Clarence, a rural community about halfway between Paxton and Rankin and about 35 miles northeast of Champaign-Urbana, according to Sharon Paul, spokeswoman for the U.S. Attorney’s office.

In November, local police responded to the Women’s Health Practice at 2125 S. Neil St. after a staff member found a broken window and what appeared to be a “potential bomb.”

No one was hurt in that incident.

The clinic provides women’s services, including abortions, and is regularly the site of protests.

An affidavit released Tuesday accused Hari, McWhorter and Morris of being responsible for the bombing in Bloomington and the attempted bombing in Champaign.

They were all arrested Tuesday, along with 18-year-old Ellis Mack, also of Clarence, on charges of possession of a machine gun.

Only Hari and Morris made appearances today before U.S. Magistrate Judge Eric Long, and Hari was ordered detained pending trial while Morris is due back in court Friday for a formal detention hearing.

McWhorter and Mack have their initial appearances tomorrow.

More to come on this developing story.

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CallSaul wrote on March 13, 2018 at 5:03 pm

So the violent terrorist scumbags who tried to blow up a building housing a women's clinic also bombed a Mosque...?

Surprise surprise surprise...

Rightwing extremists know they can't persuade the free thinking and reasonable majority of Americans to go along with their reactionary agenda so the most unhinged among them --- and let's face it: they're all pretty unhinged by normal standards --- try to impose their will by terrorist violence and murder.

Their terror campaign won't work of course.

BruckJr wrote on March 13, 2018 at 5:03 pm
PSL wrote on March 13, 2018 at 6:03 pm

When will the white Christian community speak out against this radicalization of their members?

CallSaul wrote on March 13, 2018 at 7:03 pm

Why are all the rural white rightwingers and Party of Trump Republicans and Christian leaders so silent...?

Why won't the rural rightwing white community denounce the extremism in their community...?

Until all rural white rightwingers and Christians and Party of Trump Republicans clean up their own house and renounce and turn in the extremist terrorists they're breeding in their midst, we have to just assume each and every one of them is a violent terrorist...

Stop and frisk all of them!!!11!! Make them show their papers!!!11!!

CallSaul wrote on March 13, 2018 at 8:03 pm

Hhhhhhuuuuuunnnnnhhhh.....

Normally, our rabid coterie of disaffected rightwing reactionary trolls love to splutter and bluster and thump their chests whenever there's a story about terrorism...

...or even a story about people they don't like but who they do like to falsely accuse of terrorism even if they're just peacefully assembling to protest...

But now today right here in this very spot we have a story about local homegrown terrorists doing terrorism right here in our community as well as farther afield...

...but for some reason we're not hearing from the rightwing reactionary extremist trolls who usually won't shut up about terrorism, real or imagined...

I wonder why that's the case for this one particular group of specific scumbag violent sociopathic terrorists...

What could be the distinction for these men...?

Hmmm...I'm in a quandry...

...I guess it'll just remain a mystery for all eternity...

jparks wrote on March 13, 2018 at 10:03 pm

In less than four hours you have impatiently asked in three different posts why people haven't reacted to your questions.

Three or four months ago I asked you why police departments assign more officers to neighborhoods that are predominately populated by black people compared to other neighborhoods and so far, after several months, I have heard...... (insert the sound of crickets here).

CallSaul wrote on March 13, 2018 at 10:03 pm

lol...

First note that I've in fact repeatedly and very clearly explained that I'm not going to answer your clumsy race baiting questions attacking black Americans...

And if you read my comments in this thread again, but slowly and with care this time, you'll note that I actually haven't once '...impatiently asked in three different posts why people haven't reacted to your questions.'

I have wondered why none of you rightwing reactionary trolls haven't commented on these particular terrorists...

And I of course note that your sole comment in this thread in this article about local rightwing reactionary terrorists you didn't actually say a single word about the local rightwing reactionary terrorists....

...instead you've devoted your sole comment in this thread so far only to attacking me.

Noted.

So I'll ask you directly: do you have a comment on these local rightwing reactionary terrorists?

jparks wrote on March 14, 2018 at 10:03 pm

This is the last one I have for you.  I can't dumb it down any more or any more often.

The cities of Champaign, and Urbana, and Decatur, and Danville, and Peoria, and Kankakee, and St. Louis, and Chicago, and ......(fill in the blank)...assign more police officers to patrol districts, zones, regions, etc.to areas in which more black people reside.  This statistic isn't debatable.

It is simple economics.  It is simple supply and demand.  ECON 101.  Look it up.

Why is this?

As to your above post about the Clarence Illinois possible terrorists.  I have said this so many times even I am tired of hearing it.

Saul, put your listening ears on.  My platform has always been that we need to "separate the good people from the bad." 

I never said black, white, brown, green, etc. 

If these people are tried by a judge or a jury of their peers and found guilty, they should be sentenced to the maximum sentence available.  They need to be separated from the rest of us.

Maximum sentences send a message to not only those receiving them, but all the others who might consider commiting the same or similar crimes.

 

CallSaul wrote on March 14, 2018 at 11:03 pm

As I've repeatedly and very simpy explained to you, I'm not going to indulge your nasty race baiting...

...'if' they're guilty of what they proudly and loudly have admitted to...?

It's weird how some hypocrisies can be so expected yet so nonetheless utterly astonishing...

Your absolute, if ignorant, certainty in the one example coupled with your infinite doubt and contingency and refusal to admit the obvious in the other example speaks very very very clearly...

APC wrote on March 15, 2018 at 10:03 am

Regarding the increased patroling in heavily black areas, I think that the question that Saul is trying to ask is 1) whether this is because of an inherent bias in society, in which poverty and desparation play a role as does a lack of adequate resources (in pushing people in these areas towards criminal activity and a lack of empathy) and 2) to what extent society should provide additional resources to break this chain - including affecting sentencing. 

In addition, the basis for the criminal justice system is not merely deterrence, there are also rehabilitation (as well as incarceration and retribution).  To the latter point, this is why judges are given a range of sentencing options as external factors may have played a role in the genesis of the crime or criminal.  To eliminate this ability and only permit a "one-size-fits-all" type punishment system has been tried before (think the war on drugs) and disproportionally affected one community - which kind of excerbated the current problem rather than solve it.

This is not to say that in some cases, a maximum sentence is not warranted - it is merely to say that it is not warranted under all circumstances.

jparks wrote on March 15, 2018 at 8:03 pm

I find your use of certain words and phrases and lack of others very telling.  You use words such as "inherent bias", "poverty and desparation", "lack of adequate resources", "lack of empathy".

You forgot one that is the most important of all.  PERSONAL RESPONSIBILITY.

In your view of the world society is to blame.

"Pushing people in these areas toward criminal activity and a lack of empathy"????  Who is pushing them anywhere?

APC go with me on this for a second.  Sorry if you have heard it but I don't remember you being involved in many conversations with me.

I am a former police officer.  If I left roll call and sat in my car and waited for dispatch to receive a 9-1-1 call, what neighborhoods would I most likely be sent?  By likely I mean 80 % likely.  Yep, you guessed it.  No inherent bias on my part.  No lack of empathy on my part.  No racial profiling on my part.  Nada.  

"One size fits all".  We differ on this too.  Judges should be paid to use their education, experience, and expertise to monitor court proceedings, make rulings on objections, determine allowable witnesses, make decisions on admissible evidence etc.  And when the jury comes back with a guilty verdict, they should open up the Book Of Sentences and look up the appropriate sentence for the particlular offense.  Judges have way too much power.  It isn't necessary.  It would eliminate the possibility of bias, favoritism, racism, etc.

Thank you for the civil discussion.

APC wrote on March 16, 2018 at 11:03 am

Nowhere did I mention personal responsibility because it wasn't part of the discussion.  The topic was why are black areas more heavily patroled and what is the central idea of the arguments above. 

I also believe that personal responsibility plays a role in one's choices - I simply do not believe in either extreme: that everything can be attributed to one's environment with no role for personal responsibility or that everything comes down to personal responsibility with no role of history or environment (or as you say, society is to blame). Sociologists have been studying this issue for a long time. The fact is that your choices, as well as the choices that you have available, may be limited by where and how you grew up.  This, however, does not change the fact that they are still your choices.

An example may serve as an illustration.  Who is more likely to enter a life of violent crime: someone who grew up middle class in a middle class neighborhood with a college education or someone who grew up in a life of poverty seeing violence everyday on the streets and lack of empathy for others, and who holds at best a menial job? Is it the latter's fault that he/she cannot get as well-paying a job as the former?  Is it possible that the latter commits a crime due to pressure being exerted by others in the neighborhood (e.g., threats against person or family member)?  Note that this does not generally negate the fact that one has to decide to commit the crime and is thus at some point personally responsible - it is merely to say that there must be some awareness that other factors may be at play.  Life, like truth, is rarely pure and never simple.

This also is in line with my point about sentencing. The one-size-fits-all simply cannot account for all variables that exist.  As an example: should you sentence someone to the same time if they have been coerced or are unaware of what someone else has planned vs if they acted alone or with the requisite intent? On this I believe we do not agree - a judge hears the evidence and should be allowed to form a judgment as to the proper sentence based on the specifics of the case.  To take this away from them is to remove a part of their core responsibility - to judge what the appropriate penalty is based on the law (not merely on the procedures used to obtain the verdict as you mention). Having a single sentence for a particular crime, which is a legislative issue and may itself be subject to the factors you mention, is simply too rigid for our criminal justice system.  We tried it once, with mandatory drug sentencing, and it did not work - merely excerbating the problems that society faced (e.g., stripping families of individuals for years for minor crimes, in addition to actual nefarious evildoers).

Objective Reporter wrote on March 14, 2018 at 8:03 am

He's had to ask over and over I think because people are finally choosing not to respond to his innane comments.  It's been kind of nice around here lately.  

GLG wrote on March 14, 2018 at 8:03 am

Good job by the FBI, ATF and all involved with bringing these fugitives to justice.

CallSaul wrote on March 14, 2018 at 11:03 am

So far you're the only RWer to actually acknowledge that these men were fugitives and express approval that they got caught...

...surely you agree they're terrorists, right...?

But why have no other RWers yet condemned these viscious terrorists...?

If a black kid gets arrested for anything, they'll write fifty long winded comments on how 'the black community' needs to 'get its act together' and such...

...but now, when a nest of rural white rightwing Christian actual for real terrorists have been discovered in their midst, there's nothing but radio silence from the overwhelming majority of them...

Why the silence from almost all of our normally very vocal rightwing reactionary trolls about these particular terrorists...?

...we of course all know the answer...

cjw61822@hotmail.com wrote on March 14, 2018 at 8:03 am

 Did U of I Professor Bill Ayers, member of the democratic party, convictedx member of the Weather Underground responsible for setting  bombs around Washington DC and killing one member by mistake.  Didnt Bill hold a fund raiser for Barry and Michelle at his house?

 

 

How about James Kilgore./.............. member of the SLA that killed a bank teller.  Then he fled overseas and took the name of dead kid............... did either James or Bill, who are members of the democratic party, change anything with their actions?

 

Or do they not count Sollie boy.

Objective Reporter wrote on March 14, 2018 at 10:03 am

Of course not.  That data doesn't fit Saul's agenda.

APC wrote on March 14, 2018 at 11:03 am

Insults aside, you are talking about a very different case with Ayers.  Ayers has repeatedly repented for his actions 50+ years ago and has been a productive member of the community since then.  In addition, the Weather Underground targeted the government - not innocent people due to their religion or skin color.

I am not condoning the actions of the Weather Underground - all I am saying is that the guys in this article are way different and their motivations seem to stem from hatred of "the other" rather than any misguided sense of political action.

And please - do not attempt to generalize a single party from one or two individuals - in fact a vast majority of Democrats were horrified at the actions taken by these.  Moreover, based on our current President, I do not believe this is a winning argument.

Objective Reporter wrote on March 14, 2018 at 11:03 am

100% correct, APC.  It's more about generalizing the kooks on here.

David Prochaska wrote on March 14, 2018 at 6:03 pm

How long will it take Mary Shenk to report this?

"Michael Hari, who recently launched a global security firm, wants to build President Trump's "big, beautiful wall" on the Mexican border...

Hari: “The wall will be culturally significant, a powerful architectural statement of the determination of the American people to defend their nation and its Anglo-Saxon heritage, Western culture and English language.”"

http://www.chicagotribune.com/business/ct-trump-border-wall-builders-040...

"Michael Hari and the two other men, Michael McWhorter and Joe Morris, are all facing federal arson charges. The bombing of the Dar-Al Farooq Islamic Center in Bloomington, Minnesota, occurred on August 5 while worshipers were gathering for morning prayers. No one was injured in the bombing, but it caused extensive damage to the building. The mosque is about five miles away from the site of one of President Trump’s final campaign rallies ahead of the 2016 election—during which Trump attacked Minnesota’s Somali community and compared refugees to terrorists."

https://www.democracynow.org/2018/3/14/headlines/1_of_3_men_arrested_in_...

Niko Dugan wrote on March 15, 2018 at 11:03 pm
Profile Picture

Mr. Prochaska,

An extensive review of Michael B. Hari's history by Will Brumleve, editor of the Ford County Record, will be published Friday in The News-Gazette and at news-gazette.com. It includes references to his statements to the Chicago Tribune in April 2017 about President Donald Trump's wall.

Researching and verifying this information takes time, so I ask for your patience.

In addition, our coverage of Hari's arrest thus far has made repeated reference to the government's accusations against him regarding the bombing of the Minnesota mosque.

I am deleting the other versions of this comment that you have repeatedly posted, in an effort not to have to repeat myself.

Sincerely,

Niko Dugan
online editor

David Prochaska wrote on March 16, 2018 at 11:03 am

Dear Mr. Dugan,

1) The Friday 3/15 article by Will Brumleve does not say anything about Hari's white nationalist beliefs as quoted by the Chicago Tribune article which I hyperlinked to and which Brumleve also mentions.

This is what Brumleve says, "In April 2017, Hari told The Chicago Tribune that he drafted a $10 billion plan to build a wall along the border with Mexico, citing President Donald Trump's call for such a wall. Hari drew up the proposal after launching a security company, Crisis Resolution Security Services, the newspaper said."

2) You say the News-Gazette has "made repeated reference to the government's accusations against him regarding the bombing of the Minnesota mosque." Which is true.

What you have not done is link the mosque bombing to Trump's nearby campaign stop close in time, and Trump's anti-Muslim remarks made at that time and place.

In other words, you've said nothing about why a mosque, why that mosque, and why that mosque then.

Yet you delete my comments "in an effort not to have to repeat myself."

Rather than portraying Hari's group as "homegrown domestic terrorists," as Brumleve says, you might consider connecting the dots between his group, white nationalist beliefs, and Trump's anti-Muslim statements.

Unless you're ok with not telling your readers that side of the story.

While you're engaged in that difficult, time-consuming research and verification, you might also pursue whether it is mere coincidence that TPUSA held a pro-Trump wall demonstration on campus 3/14 within a day of the Hari story breaking.

David Prochaska wrote on March 15, 2018 at 8:03 pm

Just a coincidence I'm sure

http://www.news-gazette.com/news/local/2018-03-15/protesters-converge-ui...

Protesters converge on UI Quad as student conservatives build 'wall'

Thu, 03/15/2018 - 1:23pm | Adalberto Toledo

jparks wrote on March 15, 2018 at 9:03 pm

Yeah I caught that too.