Twin Cities mosque bombers get more than 14 years in prison
Updated 12:45 p.m.
Two Illinois men received federal prison sentences Tuesday for their roles in the 2017 firebombing of a Twin Cities mosque.
Michael McWhorter, 33, and Joe Morris, 26, were two of three people who carried out the attack on the the Dar Al Farooq Islamic Center in Bloomington.
The third, Emily Claire Hari, formerly known as Michael Hari, is serving a 53-year sentence after being convicted at trial in 2020 for planning the attack. Hari, 51, of Clarence, Ill., led McWhorter and Morris in a far-right terror group known as the White Rabbit Militia.
The pipe bomb thrown into the mosque caused damage, but the five people who'd gathered for early prayers that morning all escaped injury.
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Federal Judge Donovan Frank sentenced McWhorter to nearly 16 years. Morris received a little more than 14 years. Frank cited Morris' abusive childhood and mental health challenges as reasons for the lighter sentence.
The two men faced 35-year minimum sentences for the crimes. Prior to the sentencing, though, a coalition of more than 100 faith leaders called for leniency.
“It’s only through forgiveness that we have a real chance to heal and move forward,” said Imam Mohamed Omar, who was in the room next to where the bomb exploded.
“We will neither benefit nor heal from seeing the lives of these young men doomed to prison,” Omar said. “Our community isn't here today to seek out years for the sake of years. We want to close this chapter and write the final words of compassion, which is what our faith teaches us.”
McWhorter and Morris had previously confirmed details of the crime that prosecutors had outlined in indictments. They said they traveled in a rented pickup truck with the alleged ringleader, Hari.
They stayed off the Illinois Tollway to avoid license plate readers and left their cell phones behind so they couldn't be tracked.
McWhorter said they'd hoped to scare Muslims out of the country.
He and Morris also previously pleaded guilty to federal charges stemming from militia activity in Illinois and the attempted bombing of a Champaign, Ill., women's clinic.