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Justice News

Department of Justice
U.S. Attorney’s Office
District of Minnesota

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Thursday, June 21, 2018

Three Illinois Men Indicted On Federal Civil Rights And Hate Crime Violations In The Bombing Of Bloomington, Minnesota, Islamic Center

United States Attorney Erica H. MacDonald and Acting Assistant Attorney General John Gore today announced a five-count federal indictment charging MICHAEL HARI, 47, MICHAEL MCWHORTER, 29, and JOE MORRIS, 23, with federal civil rights and hate crime violations, and using a destructive device in connection with an explosion at the Dar al-Farooq Islamic Center (“DAF”) in Bloomington, Minnesota, on August 5, 2017.1 MCWHORTER, MORRIS, and HARI were previously named in a criminal complaint filed on March 13, 2018, in the District of Minnesota, charging them with arson.

 

The three defendants are currently being held in custody in Urbana, Illinois, on separate charges.2

“These three defendants allegedly plotted and executed a plan designed specifically to spread fear and threaten a fundamental right afforded to all, the freedom of religion,” said U.S. Attorney Erica H. MacDonald. “In spite of this destructive and violent act alleged in the indictment, our communities have found strength in taking a unified stand against the attack. My office and our law enforcement partners are committed to upholding the laws that protect the civil rights of all Americans.”

“Last year's bombing was more than just an attack against a single structure, it was an attack on the very religious freedoms we enjoy as Americans,” said Jill Sanborn, Special Agent in Charge of the FBI's Minneapolis Division. “The ability to worship how and where we want is a cornerstone of our country's foundation, and the FBI stands ready to work with the community and our law enforcement partners whenever those freedoms are attacked.”

“All people – regardless of where they worship – have the right under federal law to live free from the threat of violence and discrimination,” said Acting Assistant Attorney General John Gore. “This Justice Department will hold accountable under the law anyone who attempts to commit violent acts of hate by threat or action.

The indictment returned by a federal grand jury alleges that HARI, MCWHORTER, and MORRIS engaged in a conspiracy to use an explosive device to intentionally cause damage to the DAF Islamic Center in Bloomington, Minnesota, which serves as a religious center as well as a religious school for children. The defendants targeted this location because of the religious character of the DAF Islamic Center, and for the purpose of making Muslims feel frightened and intimidated by interfering with their free exercise of religious liberty. As part of the conspiracy, HARI constructed a pipe bomb and, on July 27, 2017, rented a pickup truck from a vehicle rental business in Champaign-Urbana, Illinois. On August 4 and 5, 2017, HARI, MCWHORTER, and MORRIS drove together in the rented pickup truck from Illinois to Bloomington, Minnesota, stopping along the way to purchase diesel fuel and gasoline, which the defendants mixed together in a plastic container.

As alleged in the indictment and a previously filed criminal complaint, in the early morning of August 5, 2017, MORRIS used a sledge hammer to break a window at the DAF Islamic Center and threw the plastic container containing the diesel fuel and gasoline mixture into the building. It is alleged that MCWHORTER then lit the fuse on the pipe bomb that HARI had built and threw the pipe bomb through the broken window at the DAF Islamic Center. According to the court documents, the window that was broken was part of the Imam’s office. When the pipe bomb exploded, it ignited the mixture in the plastic container, causing extensive fire and smoke damage to the Imam’s office. MCWHORTER and MORRIS returned to the pickup truck, where HARI was waiting, and sped off, driving back to Illinois.

As alleged in the previously filed criminal complaint, MCWHORTER said in reference to the DAF Islamic Center explosion, that the defendants did not intend to kill anyone, but they wanted to “scare [Muslims] out of the country” and to “show them hey, you’re not welcome here, get the [expletive] out.” 

As alleged in the previously filed criminal complaint, on January 27, 2018, investigators received a tip from a confidential source with information about the three defendants and their involvement with the bombing at the DAF Islamic Center.

The Federal Bureau of Investigation is leading the investigation.

This case is being prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorneys Julie E. Allyn and John F. Docherty of the District of Minnesota, with assistance from Trial Attorney Timothy Visser of the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division. The team is working in coordination with the U.S. Attorney’s Office in the Central District of Illinois.

 

Defendant Information:

MICHAEL HARI, 47

Clarence, Ill.

Charges:

  • Intentionally Defacing, Damaging, and Destroying any Religious Real Property Because of the Religious Character of that Property, 1 count
  • Intentionally Obstructing, and Attempting to Obstruct, by Force and the Threat of Force, the Free Exercise of Religious Beliefs, 1 count
  • Conspiracy to Commit Federal Felonies by Means of Fire and Explosives, 1 count
  • Carrying and Using a Destructive Device During and in Relation to Crimes of Violence, 1 count
  • Possession of an unregistered destructive device, 1 count

 
MICHAEL MCWHORTER, 29
Clarence, Ill.
 
Charges:

  • Intentionally Defacing, Damaging, and Destroying any Religious Real Property Because of the Religious Character of that Property, 1 count
  • Intentionally Obstructing, and Attempting to Obstruct, by Force and the Threat of Force, the Free Exercise of Religious Beliefs, 1 count
  • Conspiracy to Commit Federal Felonies by Means of Fire and Explosives, 1 count
  • Carrying and Using a Destructive Device During and in Relation to Crimes of Violence, 1 count

 
JOE MORRIS, 23
Clarence, Ill.
 
Charges:

  • Intentionally Defacing, Damaging, and Destroying any Religious Real Property Because of the Religious Character of that Property, 1 count
  • Intentionally Obstructing, and Attempting to Obstruct, by Force and the Threat of Force, the Free Exercise of Religious Beliefs, 1 count
  • Conspiracy to Commit Federal Felonies by Means of Fire and Explosives, 1 count
  • Carrying and Using a Destructive Device During and in Relation to Crimes of Violence, 1 count
     
     

 

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United States Attorney’s Office, District of Minnesota: (612) 664-5600

 

[1] The charges contained in the indictment are merely allegations, and the defendants are presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty.

Topic(s): 
Civil Rights
Hate Crimes
Violent Crime
Component(s): 
Updated June 21, 2018