2 Illinois men get 14, 16 years in Minnesota mosque bombing

Apr 12, 2022, 11:48 AM | Updated: 3:54 pm

ST. PAUL, Minn. (AP) — Two Illinois men who helped bomb a Minnesota mosque in 2017 on Tuesday received prison sentences far below the 35-year mandatory minimum that they had faced, after victims and prosecutors asked for leniency because the men cooperated and testified against the mastermind of the attack.

Michael McWhorter, 33, was sentenced to just under 16 years in prison and Joe Morris, 26, was sentenced to about 14 years. Both testified in the 2020 trial against Emily Claire Hari, the leader of a small Illinois militia group called the “White Rabbits.”

Hari was convicted in late 2020 and sentenced last year to 53 years in prison for the attack on Dar Al-Farooq Islamic Center, a mosque in the Minneapolis suburb of Bloomington.

U.S. District Judge Donovan Frank said Tuesday that the men’s “substantial assistance” allowed him to issue penalties below the statutory minimums, the Star Tribune reported.

Frank acknowledged the men were under Hari’s influence, but rejected their attorneys’ requests for 10-year sentences, saying their seven-month crime spree was “contrary to everything America stands for.”

“When all is said and done,” Frank said, anything less would not “promote respect for the law.”

No one was hurt in the Aug. 5, 2017, explosion after a pipe bomb exploded in the imam’s office as worshippers gathered for early morning prayers, but community members were shaken by the incident and the mosque’s executive director testified at Hari’s trial that it led to fear and diminished attendance.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Allison Ethen asked Frank for a 50% reduction from the mandatory minimum sentences for McWhorter and Morris — a request that she and Frank both said was rare. But Ethan asked Frank to cap the sentence no lower than 15 years, saying a light sentence would send the wrong message.

Imam Mohamed Omar, executive director of Dar Al-Farooq Center, asked fellow clergy and faith leaders to sign an open letter urging forgiveness. Omar called McWhorter and Morris two young men who “temporarily were plunged downwards into the darkness of Emily Hari’s world.”

“The harm that was done is real, the crime that was committed is real, the horror of what happened that day is real, but what’s also real is our opportunity to offer real forgiveness, and lead by example,” the letter said. “We believe that only through forgiveness can we have any real chance to heal and move forward.”

McWhorter and Morris both pleaded guilty to multiple counts in 2019.

At Hari’s trial, their testimony showed that Hari told them to throw the pipe bomb into the center while Hari waited in a rented truck. Morris testified that Hari told him the mosque was training ISIS fighters — something the mosque has denied and prosecutors have never alleged.

Hari was the leader of a group called the “White Rabbits 3 Percent Illinois Patriot Freedom Fighters.” In addition to the mosque bombing, the group also robbed a Wal-Mart with airsoft guns, tried to extort the Canadian railroad, invaded homes and attempted to firebomb a women’s health clinic in Champaign, Illinois.

McWhorter said Tuesday that he feared Hari and Morris may kill him if he didn’t go through with the plan.

“I bombed a mosque. But it was not by choice,” he said. “I feared for my life when I bombed the mosque. I didn’t do it out of just pure hatred. I don’t have any hate” for Muslims.

McWhorter said that in the four years he’s been in jail since his arrest, he’s been studying toward his GED and reading books about Islam. He has made several Muslim friends in jail, he said, some of whom wrote letters on his behalf to Frank.

Morris apologized to those he harmed, saying he was ashamed that he believed the things Hari told him.

“What I did was very, very wrong,” he continued. “But I ask for your mercy.”

He said he planned to return to the Amish community, where he once lived, after finishing his prison term, saying “that’s the only time in my life” I was shown “support and love.” Several members of that community were in court.

Chris Madel, McWhorter’s attorney, said in court filings that McWhorter committed the crimes “at the invitation, direction and plan” of Hari. Madel said his client was manipulated by Hari’s lies about Muslims.

Morris’ attorney, Robert Richman, said his client suffered from undiagnosed mental illness, including schizophrenia and depression. Richman wrote in court documents that Hari took advantage of Morris’ illness, telling him to follow the “angels” speaking to him.

Hari also exerted a special power over Morris, said Richman in the filing. “No one in the world was closer to him. When Hari told Joe to do something, Joe did it. Hari was a hero to Joe. He felt that Hari accepted him.”

Copyright © The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

AP

A Ukrainian serviceman changes his position at the frontline near Kharkiv, Ukraine, on Saturday, Ju...
Associated Press

Governor: Russians gaining foothold in pivotal Ukraine city

KYIV, Ukraine (AP) — Russian forces are strengthening their positions in a grueling fight to capture the last stronghold of resistance in eastern Ukraine’s Luhansk province, the region’s governor said Sunday. Ukrainian fighters have spent weeks trying to defend the city of Lysychansk, and to keep it from falling to Russia, as neighboring Sievierodonetsk did […]
2 hours ago
Associated Press

North Texas shooter kills 2, wounds 3 cops, takes own life

HALTOM CITY, Texas (AP) — A gunman killed two people and wounded four others, including three police officers, before taking his own life Saturday evening in the Dallas-Fort Worth area, police said. Haltom City Police Det. Matt Spillane said early Sunday that all of those wounded in the shooting in a residential neighborhood had non-life […]
1 day ago
FILE - In this Saturday, Oct. 1, 2011 file photo, Associated Press Special Regional Correspondent f...
Associated Press

Hope and despair: Kathy Gannon on 35 years in Afghanistan

KABUL, Afghanistan (AP) — The Afghan policeman opened fire on us with his AK-47, emptying 26 bullets into the back of the car. Seven slammed into me, and at least as many into my colleague, Associated Press photographer Anja Niedringhaus. She died at my side. Anja weighed heavy against my shoulder. I tried to look […]
1 day ago
FILE - In this Monday, Nov. 18, 2019 file photo, the logo of Google is displayed on a carpet at the...
Associated Press

Google to erase more location info as abortion bans expand

Google will automatically purge information about users who visit abortion clinics or other places that could trigger legal problems now that the U.S. Supreme Court has opened the door for states to ban the termination of pregnancies.
1 day ago
FILE - President Joe Biden, center, meets with South Korea's President Yoon Suk Yeol, left, and Jap...
Associated Press

North Korea slams US-South Korea-Japan military cooperation

SEOUL, South Korea (AP) — North Korea on Sunday slammed the United States, South Korea and Japan for pushing to boost their trilateral military cooperation targeting the North, warning that the move is prompting urgent calls for the country to reinforce its military capability. North Korea has long cited what it calls hostility by the […]
1 day ago
FILE - Uvalde School Police Chief Pete Arredondo, second from left, stands during a news conference...
Associated Press

Uvalde schools’ police chief resigns from City Council

The Uvalde school district’s police chief has stepped down from his position in the City Council just weeks after being sworn in following allegations that he erred in his response to the mass shooting at Robb Elementary School that left 19 students and two teachers dead. Chief Pete Arredondo said in a letter dated Friday […]
1 day ago

Sponsored Articles

...
Day & Night Air Conditioning, Heating and Plumbing

Most plumbing problems can be fixed with regular maintenance

Instead of waiting for a problem to happen, experts suggest getting a head start on your plumbing maintenance.
...
Day & Night Air

Tips to lower your energy bill in the Arizona heat

Does your summer electric bill make you groan? Are you looking for effective ways to reduce your bill?
...
Christina O’Haver

BE FAST to spot a stroke

Every 40 seconds—that’s how often someone has a stroke in the United States. It’s the fifth leading cause of death among Americans, with someone dying of a stroke every 3.5 minutes.
2 Illinois men get 14, 16 years in Minnesota mosque bombing