Illinois to get first shot at accused mosque bombers

CHICAGO (WLS) -- Even though a trio of bombing suspects is charged with attacking a Minnesota mosque last summer, the men will first be prosecuted in Illinois for an attempted attack here three months later, the I-Team has learned.

Michael Hari, 47; Joe Morris, 22; and Michael McWhorter, 29, all of Clarence in central Illinois, are believed by authorities to be part of a homegrown domestic terrorism group the "White Rabbit militia."

The violent sect, according to federal law enforcement officials, was led by Hari, who is a former Ford County sheriff's deputy and one-time Libertarian candidate for sheriff.

Newly-filed court records by the U.S. attorney in Minneapolis on Friday ask for a 60-day extension for grand jury indictments in the August mosque bombing "due to the complexity of the cases pending in each district, the distance between counsel and their clients, and the understanding that the defendants will not be brought to Minnesota until the Central District of Illinois cases are resolved."

That means that Hari, Morris and McWhorter will first face trial on charges they tried in November to blow up a Champaign women's clinic where abortions are performed. Criminal suspects are usually first prosecuted in the location of the most serious offense, and that would be Minneapolis.

As the I-Team uncovered last month, the men are allegedly part of a group called the White Rabbit 3 Percent Illinois Patriot Freedom Fighters Militia.

They allegedly use "guerilla warfare tactics" to try to take back America.

During online videos that have been linked to the defendants, several masked men pledge allegiance to the White Rabbit militia.

When the men were arrested, the affidavit alleged that Hari, McWhorter and Morris drove a truck in August from Champaign to Minnesota to bomb the Dar al-Farooq Islamic Center. No one was injured in that bombing, but the bomb caused extensive damage to the building.

It also alleges that they later drove a truck in November to the Women's Health Practice in Champaign, smashed a window and threw an explosive device in. An employee arrived for work and found the device, which never exploded.

The affidavit also alleges that the four men participated in a home invasion in Indiana in December to rob a Hispanic drug dealer, as well as three Walmart robberies in Illinois.

Hari and McWhorter are also facing charges in Ford County Circuit Court.

Following raids the past few months on several properties connected to the men, videos were posted describing the police actions and "sending out a request for more militia to come and help us take our town back." During raids that prompted that video post, authorities seized what appeared to be bomb-making materials and numerous guns.

The men in the videos, while partially masked, appear to include those who were arrested and now face federal charges in Illinois and Minnesota.

The videos are posted to a You Tube channel entitled "Illinois Patriot" and accuse the government of being "illegitimate."

"We need you to come and stand with us" states one of the speakers on video, encouraging militia members and other anti-government extremists that believe there is a conspiracy underway to take guns from Americans and enslave them, part of the so-called "Follow the White Rabbit" conspiracy theory.

The full name of their group, "White Rabbit Three Percent Illinois Patriot Freedom Fighters Militia" includes a reference to the apparently false factoid that only 3 percent of American colonists fought in the Revolution against the British government.

One White Rabbit Militia sect speaker encourages his brothers in arms. "Is there anything left that they could take from us?" the video talking head asks. "Oh, you say, 'We still have our guns.' Well what good are they if they don't use them. The country is turned into a police state."

Hari was also bidding on construction of the border wall between the U.S. and Mexico championed by President Trump.

Law enforcement sources say it was a member of the White Rabbits who tipped them to the group's plans earlier this year, after seeing weapons including fully automatic rifles and explosives stored in Hari's safe. That militiaman agreed to become a federal informant, and authorities say told them McWhorter offered him $18,000 for helping in the Minnesota mosque bombing. The suspects have pleaded not guilty and are due back in an Illinois courtroom in late May.
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