Ford County militia members' trial pushed back to Aug. 21

Ford County militia members' trial pushed back to Aug. 21

URBANA — The trial for four Ford County men accused of crimes related to their membership in a homegrown militia group bent on violence has been continued to late summer.

In brief hearings Friday before U.S. District Court Judge Colin Bruce, attorneys for Michael Hari, 47, Joe Morris, 22, Ellis "E.J." Mack, 18, and Michael McWhorter, 29, all of Clarence, asked for more time to prepare defenses for their clients.

With no objection from the government, Bruce continued the case to Aug. 21 for trial and set a final pretrial date for July 27. To date, none of the men has asked for a separate trial.

The hearings took only minutes, with Morris, Mack and McWhorter appearing together first and Hari, the purported leader of the "White Rabbits," being brought into the courtroom after the other three were finished and escorted out.

Hari's parents were in the audience.

All four remain jailed in the custody of federal marshals. All are charged with possession of a machine gun and conspiracy to interfere with commerce by threats of violence.

The latter charge has to do with robberies and attempted armed robberies that the group allegedly committed between August 2017 and March in Watseka, Mount Vernon and Ambia, Ind.; a threat to blow up railroad tracks near Effingham to extort money from the railroad; and planting bomb-making materials on the property of another Clarence resident.

Hari, Morris and McWhorter are also charged with attempted arson for trying to set fire, by means of a bomb, to the Women's Health Practice, 2125 S. Neil St., C, last November. The homemade explosive fizzled before carrying out its intended consequence.

Those three are also charged in Minnesota for the August 2017 firebombing of a mosque south of Minneapolis.

Because the men are in custody in the Central District of Illinois, it's assumed their case here will be tried first. Assistant U.S. Attorney Eugene Miller told Bruce the trial would probably take a little more than a week.

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