2 alleged Bloomington mosque bombers waive initial court hearing
Updated: March 21, 3:15 p.m. | Posted: March 20, 10:44 a.m.
Two of the three men accused of bombing a suburban Twin Cities mosque last summer made brief appearances Wednesday in an Illinois federal courtroom.
Michael Hari, 47, and one of his alleged accomplices, Michael McWhorter, 29, were set for preliminary hearings where they could have called witnesses and questioned the government's case against them. They waived that right.
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Hari came into the courtroom in the early afternoon unshackled, wearing a yellow jail jumpsuit and sporting a wispy gray beard with no mustache. He sat calmly with defense attorneys, occasionally looking back to his father sitting in the court.
McWhorter followed shortly after also unshackled and in prison garb.
Federal prosecutors in Minneapolis last week filed a criminal complaint charging Hari, McWhorter and Joe Morris, 22, with maliciously damaging the mosque by means of fire and explosives.
According to the complaint, the three rented a pickup truck and drove more than 500 miles from the small, east-central Illinois town of Clarence, where they live, to Bloomington to attack the Dar al Farooq Islamic Center. They agreed Morris would smash the window and McWhorter would throw the bomb inside.
A confidential FBI informant cited in court documents said Hari promised the others $18,000 to help with the attack.
An FBI agent interviewed McWhorter 10 days ago, and he allegedly admitted to his participation in the bombing and said they did not intend to kill anyone but wanted to scare Muslims out of the country to "show them hey, you're not welcome here."
On Aug. 5, 2017, a group of worshipers gathered for early morning prayers at Dar Al Farooq. Around 5 a.m. they heard breaking glass near the imam's office, then an explosion. Nobody was hurt, but the blast damaged part of the building immediately around the office.
Authorities say the attackers broke a window with a sledge hammer and threw in a bomb made from plastic pipe and black powder. The damage has since been repaired with donated labor and materials and support from the surrounding community.
The three men are part of an anti-government group in east-central Illinois called the "White Rabbit Militia." The group's YouTube channel includes videos where a man wearing a ski mask espouses conspiracy theories about the "deep state" and the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services.
In a video posted March 4, the same man, who appears to be Hari, pleaded for other militia members to help guard their town. This was several days after federal agents showed up and seized Hari's weapons, including at least three semi-automatic rifles illegally converted to fully automatic weapons, but before authorities filed charges.
They're being held without bond for alleged machine gun possession in Illinois in addition to the mosque bombing charges in Minnesota.