According to U.S. prosecutors three of the defendants were also involved in Midwestern bomb plots. One of the attacks was against a mosque in Minnesota. Another targeted a women's clinic in Champaign where abortions are conducted.
At a detention hearing Friday afternoon in federal court in Champaign, prosecutors asked that Ellis Mack, 18, and Joe Morris, 22, be kept locked up as threats to the community. Magistrate Judge Eric I. Long ordered the men held without bond. Although Mack is linked to the three bombing suspects he is charged with possessing a machine gun.
Late Friday a letter sent by Mack's mother to Judge Long was entered into the court file. The letter asked for mercy for her son.
Their alleged co-conspirators, 47-year old Michael Hari and Michael McWhorter, 29, have already been declared risks to public safety and are being held without bond. All four men hail from the postage stamp-sized town of Clarence in central Illinois, an unincorporated hamlet about 120 miles south of Chicago.
Hari is a former downstate sheriff's deputy who is now described by federal law enforcement officials as the head of a homegrown terrorist organization. They characterize Hari as a shadowy figure with anti-government views who is sometimes threatening to those who have differing opinions.
He and two associates are charged with driving a rented truck from rural Clarence last Aug. 5 to stage a pipe-bomb attack on the Dar Al-Farooq Islamic Center in Bloomington, Minnesota. Investigators say defendant McWhorter told them the blast was intended to scare Muslims into leaving the U.S. No one was hurt in the explosion but it triggered a fire just as morning Muslim prayers were about to start.
Morris allegedly used a sledgehammer to smash in the mosque's window and tossed in the explosive device, which McWhorter described to the feds as a "huge ass black powder bomb."
Prosecutors say Hari promised each of the accomplices an $18,000 fee for their hands in the mosque assault-even though he may not have had the means to pay that. Court records portray him as destitute, quoting an informant who said Hari frequently stayed at his parents' home in central Illinois because he had no running water or electricity.
Apparently emboldened after three months without being arrested, the trio is accused of attempting another bombing last November. They allegedly used an identical modus operandi while trying to blow up a women's clinic in Champaign that provides abortions. Hari drove the getaway car and Morris smashed a window according to federal authorities, this time they say he threw a thermite device into the clinic. It ended up being a dud and police said the IED was unexploded the next morning when a clinic staff member found it on the floor.
According to the FBI, Mack and McWhorter told agents that all four men also committed a bi-state series of crimes in Illinois and Indiana. In December of last year they went to the home of an alleged "Hispanic drug dealer" because they thought they could steal cash from him, court records state. Authorities said the quartet posed as police officers executing a search warrant and were armed with "automatic weapons." McWhorter also said that they staged three armed robberies of Walmart stores in Illinois.
A business that Hari owns offers resident evacuations because of radical Islamic terror. The company last year submitted one of the bids to construct President Trump's long-promised wall along the U.S.-Mexico border. His project is entitled the "Great Western International Border Wall" and is aimed at protecting "our way of life from people who have other value systems." A video touting Hari's $10 billion proposal is still on his company's You Tube page. "The wall embodies patriotic views for the ages" the video states. "Build that wall! Make America great again" intones the announcer, borrowing President Trump's campaign battle cry.
Hari, who worked for a year and a half as a deputy sheriff in downstate Ford County, has a criminal history in Illinois that includes convictions for child abduction from a stretch more than a decade ago when he took his two teenage daughters to Belize in Central America during a custody fight with an ex-wife. He received probation.
Hari was also charged with assaulting a neighbor last summer. After the man entered his property police said Hari pinned the man and aimed a pellet gun at his head.
He also reportedly had operated a gun store in rural Paxton and staged a bid for Ford County Sheriff in 1998 as a libertarian but lost.