Minneapolis Man Sentenced to 12.5 Years in Prison for Violent Carjacking Outside Northeast Minneapolis Restaurant
ST. PAUL, Minn. – Michael McWhorter, 33, and Joe Morris, 26, both of Clarence, Illinois, were sentenced today to 190 months and 170 months in prison, respectively, for firearms violations, arson, use of a destructive device, and federal civil rights violations in connection with the 2017 bombing of Dar al-Farooq (DAF) Islamic Center in Bloomington, Minnesota.
“Hate-fueled acts of violence like the bombing of the Dar al-Farooq Islamic Center violate our laws and run contrary to our values as a nation,” said Assistant Attorney General Kristen Clarke of the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division. “This heinous bombing instilled fear in an entire faith community. These defendants made the decision to confess to their crimes and assist in the civil rights prosecution of the individual who led them to join a far-reaching criminal conspiracy rooted in white supremacy. The department will continue using all the tools in our law enforcement arsenal to prosecute hate-fueled acts, including those that target communities of faith and houses of worship.”
“McWhorter and Morris carried out a violent plan to attack a house of worship as people peacefully prayed inside,” said Assistant Attorney General Matthew G. Olsen of the Justice Department’s National Security Division. “In the United States, all people have a right to exercise their faith freely. The Justice Department will vigorously prosecute domestic terrorists who carry out acts of violence to suppress those rights or threaten and intimidate others based on their religious identity.”
“Although these men were not the criminal masterminds of their violent acts, they followed Hari’s leadership, they complied with the direction they were given, and submitted to a violent and extremist ideology in carrying out this act of terrorism,” said U.S. Attorney Andrew Luger. “The government recognizes and values McWhorter and Morris’s cooperation throughout this case, which contributed to Hari’s conviction. Today, justice under the law has been served for their actions. The U.S. Attorney’s Office and the Department of Justice will protect and uphold the rights of individuals and faith communities to worship freely, without the threat of violence.”
“This crime was a violent, hate driven attack that specifically targeted individuals based on their faith. More broadly, this was an attack on all faith-based communities that openly practice their religions with a reasonable expectation of peaceful freedom to do so,” said Michael Paul, Special Agent in Charge of the FBI's Minneapolis division. “Every person has the right to live and worship freely and without fear. The FBI is committed to defending all communities and protecting the rights of all Americans.”
According to court documents, during the summer of 2017, Emily Claire Hari, 51, f/k/a Michael Hari, established a terrorist militia group called “The White Rabbits” in Clarence, Illinois. Hari recruited McWhorter and Morris to join the militia, which Hari outfitted with paramilitary equipment and assault rifles. On August 4 and 5, 2017, Hari, McWhorter, and Morris drove in a rented pickup truck from Illinois to Bloomington, Minnesota, to bomb the DAF Islamic Center. About an hour outside of Minnesota, Hari disclosed to McWhorter and Morris that there was a pipe bomb in the truck and that they were going to bomb a mosque. Hari targeted DAF specifically to terrorize Muslims into believing they are not welcome in the United States and should leave the country.
According to court documents, Hari, McWhorter, and Morris arrived at DAF at approximately 5:00 a.m. on August 5, 2017. Morris used a sledgehammer to break the window of the Imam’s office at DAF and threw a plastic container with a mixture of diesel fuel and gasoline into the office. McWhorter then lit the fuse on a 20-pound black powder pipe bomb and threw it through the broken window. McWhorter and Morris ran back to the truck where Hari was waiting in the driver’s seat. The three sped away from the building and drove back to Illinois. When the pipe bomb exploded, the blast caused extensive damage to the Imam’s office. It also ignited the gasoline and diesel mixture, causing extensive fire and smoke damage. At the time of the bombing, several worshipers were gathered in the mosque for morning prayers.
According to court documents, on November 7, 2017, Hari, McWhorter, and Morris attempted to set fire to the Women’s Health Practice in Champaign, Illinois. Morris used a sledgehammer to break a window and placed a PVC device containing thermite powder in the Women’s Health Practice. The device did not ignite and was found by an employee of the Women’s Health Practice when the employee arrived to work later that morning.
According to court documents, on December 16, 2017, McWhorter and Morris participated in an armed home invasion in the town of Ambia, Indiana, where they dressed as police officers and carried firearms, including two that had been illegally converted into machine guns. Hari, McWhorter, and Morris also carried out armed robberies of two Walmart stores, one in Watseka, Illinois, and one in Mt. Vernon, Illinois, on December 2, 2017, and December 17, 2017, respectively.
On January 24, 2019, McWhorter and Morris pleaded guilty in the District of Minnesota to federal charges that originated in both the District of Minnesota and the Central District of Illinois. The pleas to the charges originating in the Central District of Illinois were entered in Minnesota pursuant to Federal Rule of Criminal Procedure 20, which allows for the transfer of charges for the entry of guilty pleas and the imposition of sentence. The charges included intentionally obstructing, and attempting to obstruct, by force and the threat of force, the free exercise of religious beliefs; carrying and using a destructive device during and in relation to crimes of violence; possession of a machine gun; conspiracy to interfere with commerce by threats and violence; and attempted arson.
This case is the result of an investigation conducted by the FBI.
Assistant U.S. Attorneys Allison Ethen and Timothy Rank for the District of Minnesota prosecuted the case, with valuable assistance provided by Trial Attorney Timothy Visser of the Civil Rights Division, Lead Paralegal Specialist Lynette Simser, Community Affairs Director Angie LaTour, former Assistant U.S. Attorneys John Docherty and Julie Allyn, Assistant U.S. Attorney Eugene Miller, of the Central District of Illinois, and the special agents of the FBI’s Minneapolis and Springfield Divisions, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, the Bloomington Police Department, and the Bloomington Fire Department.