UPDATE: Ford County bombing suspects waive right to hearing

UPDATE: Ford County bombing suspects waive right to hearing

URBANA — Three of the four Ford County men arrested last week for possession of a machine gun appeared Wednesday at the federal courthouse in Urbana to waive their right to a preliminary hearing.

Michael Hari, 47, Michael McWhorter, 29, and Ellis Mack, 18, all of Clarence, each waived their preliminary hearing, which the fourth, Joe Morris, 22, had already done.

All four remain in custody.

The next step will be for prosecutors to take their case to a grand jury, which could return an indictment if it finds probable cause.

Federal prosecutors in Minnesota filed charges last week accusing Hari, Morris and McWhorter of bombing a mosque in Minnesota. They are also suspected in the attempted bombing of a women’s health clinic in Champaign last year.

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 called the White Rabbit 3 Percent Illinois Patriot Freedom Fighters Militia, which the other men belonged to.

Like McWhorter and Mack, Hari said nothing in court Wednesday besides acknowledging that he understood he was waiving his right to a preliminary hearing.

Hari, who wore a yellow prison jumpsuit, was represented by assistant federal public defender Elisabeth Pollock.

Wednesday’s hearings were brief, with no new details revealed about the case.

McWhorter was represented by Urbana attorney Baku Patel, and Mack was represented by Urbana’s Lawrence Solava.

The hearings came a day after McWhorter was ordered to appear in Ford County Circuit Court this June.

According to a petition signed by State’s Attorney Andrew Killian and Chief Probation Officer Ellen Maxey, McWhorter violated the probation he received two years ago for a drug-related conviction four times.

The petition alleges that McWhorter did so by committing the offense of terrorism on Aug. 7, 2017, by taking part in the bombing of the Dar al-Farooq Islamic Center in Bloomington, Minn.

That same day, McWhorter allegedly also violated his probation by committing the offense of unlawful use of a weapon, the petition alleges.

According to federal authorities, McWhorter allegedly threw a homemade bomb in the mosque and fled before it exploded. No injuries were reported.

A third probation violation allegedly occurred on Nov. 7, when McWhorter again committed the offense of unlawful use of a weapon in connection with the attempted firebombing of the Women’s Health Practice at 2125 S. Neil St. in Champaign.

The fourth alleged violation occurred Jan. 1, 2018, when McWhorter allegedly committed a home invasion in Indiana. According to federal authorities, McWhorter admitted that he participated in the home invasion, intending to rob a Hispanic drug dealer of cash while posing as police with a search warrant.

McWhorter was sentenced to two years of probation on Feb. 23, 2016, after pleading guilty to two misdemeanor counts of unlawful delivery of cannabis and one misdemeanor count of unlawful possession with intent to deliver cannabis. In return for his plea, misdemeanor charges of possession of 2.5 to 10 grams of cannabis and possession of drug paraphernalia were dismissed.

Like McWhorter, Hari has a separate criminal case pending in Ford County.

Hari is charged with unlawful restraint, a Class 4 felony, and misdemeanor battery in connection with the alleged assault of a neighbor in July 2017.

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