Ford County militia members indicted for Minnesota mosque firebombing

Ford County militia members indicted for Minnesota mosque firebombing

MINNEAPOLIS — A federal grand jury in Minnesota has indicted three Ford County men for civil rights and hate crime violations in connection with the firebombing of a mosque in that state last August.

No court dates have been set in Minnesota, however, for Michael Hari, 47, Michael McWhorter, 29, and Joe Morris, 23, all of Clarence.

They were indicted Wednesday and the charges unsealed Thursday in Minneapolis.

The three men and Ellis Mack, 18, also of Clarence, continue to be jailed in the Central District of Illinois on charges of conspiracy to interfere with commerce by threats and violence and possession of a machine gun for crimes they allegedly committed in Illinois and Indiana last year.

Hari, McWhorter and Morris are also charged with attempted arson for trying to burn down the Women's Health Practice, 2125 S. Neil St, C, on Nov. 7. The homemade explosive device employed in the attempt fizzled before it could do any damage.

The men are tentatively set to be tried in Urbana on all those charges Aug. 21.

The five-count Minnesota indictment alleges that Hari, McWhorter and Morris conspired to damage the Dar al Farooq Islamic Center in Bloomington, Minn., on Aug. 5, 2017. The mosque also served as a religious school for children.

The indictment alleges the group rented a pickup truck in Champaign or Urbana and drove to Bloomington on Aug. 4 and 5, stopping along the way to buy diesel fuel and gasoline which they mixed in a plastic containter.

On Aug. 5, Morris allegedly used a sledge hammer to break a window at the mosque and throw in the container of fuel. Authorities allege McWhorter lit the fuse on the pipe bomb that Hari had built and threw it through the broken window of the Imam's office.

The bomb exploded, setting off a fire that substantially damaged that office. There were people inside the mosque but no one was physically injured.

McWhorter and Morris got back in the rental truck where Hari was waiting and the trio sped off. They returned the truck on Aug. 6 to the Champaign County rental business where they had gotten it.

Authorities received a tip in late January about the group's involvement in the mosque firebombing.

In the initial criminal complaint it was revealed that McWhorter said the group didn't intend to kill anyone at the mosque but wanted to "scare [Muslims] out of the country" and to "show them hey, you're not welcome here, get the [expletive] out."

"These three defendants allegedly plotted and executed a plan designed specifically to spread fear and threaten a fundamental right afforded to all: the freedom of religion," said U.S. Attorney Erica H. MacDonald of the District of Minnesota. "In spite of this destructive and violent act alleged in the indictment, our communities have found strength in taking a unified stand against the attack."

"Last year's bombing was more than just an attack against a single structure. It was an attack on the very religious freedoms we enjoy as Americans," said Jill Sanborn, Special Agent in Charge of the FBI's

Minneapolis Division. "The ability to worship how and where we want is a cornerstone of our country's foundation, and the FBI stands ready to work with the community and our law enforcement partners whenever those freedoms are attacked."

Hari, the leader of a homegrown militia group known as the "White Rabbits," was the alleged mastermind of the mosque damage.

A former Ford County sheriff's deputy with a checkered history, Hari is also alleged to have hatched a

series of other crimes in Illinois and Indiana for which he and the other three have been indicted, including:

— Robbing or attempting to rob Walmart stores in Watseka Dec. 4 and Mt. Vernon about Dec. 17.

— Robbing or attempting to rob suspected drug dealers in Ambia, Ind., on or about Dec. 16.

— Damaging or attempting to damage Canadian National Railway railroad tracks near Effingham by an explosive device on Jan. 7, then trying to extort money from the railroad by threatening additional track damage if the railroad did not pay a ransom.

— Planting bomb-making materials on the property of a Clarence resident about Feb. 8, in an attempt to deflect suspicion from the White Rabbits and instead wrongfully implicate the property owner.

U.S. District Court Judge Colin Bruce is presiding over the case in Urbana. Assistant U.S. Attorney Eugene Miller is the prosecutor.

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