ST. PAUL, Minn.—The leader of an Illinois anti-government militia group who authorities say masterminded the 2017 bombing of a Minnesota mosque was sentenced Monday to 53 years in prison.
Emily Claire Hari, who was previously known as Michael Hari and recently said he is transgender, faced a mandatory minimum of 30 years for the attack on Dar al-Farooq Islamic Center in Bloomington. Defense attorneys asked for the minimum, but prosecutors sought life, saying Hari hasn’t taken responsibility for the attack.
No one was hurt in the bombing, but more than a dozen members of the mosque community gave victim impact statements Monday about the trauma it left behind. U.S. District Judge Donovan Frank said evidence clearly showed Hari’s intent was to “scare, intimidate, and terrorize individuals of Muslim faith.”
“Diversity is the strength of this country,” Frank said. “Anyone who doesn’t understand that doesn’t understand the constitutional promise of this country that brings a lot of people here.”
“Anything less than 636 months would (be) disrespect to the law,” the judge added.
Frank said he was prepared to recommend Hari go to a women’s prison, but said the Bureau of Prisons would decide.
Hari was convicted in December on five counts, including damaging property because of its religious character and obstructing the free exercise of religious beliefs.
Members of the mosque asked the judge on Monday to impose a life sentence, describing their shock and terror at the attack. Some were afraid to pray there afterward and have not returned. Mothers were scared to bring their kids to the mosque, which also serves as a charter school and community center.
“I felt really scared because I was going to start school in the same building soon and we lived like six blocks away from the mosque,” said Idris Yusuf, who was 9 when the bombing happened. “I was scared because if these people could do this to our mosque, what’s stopping them from coming to Muslim people’s homes too?”
Afterward, community members said they saw 53 years as justice for an attack that has rattled worshippers for more than four years.
Several men were gathered at Dar al-Farooq for early morning prayers on Aug. 5, 2017, when a pipe bomb was thrown through the window of an imam’s office. A seven-month investigation led authorities to Clarence, Illinois, a rural community about 120 miles south of Chicago, where Hari and co-defendants Michael McWhorter and Joe Morris lived.
Authorities say Hari, 50, led a group called the White Rabbits that included McWhorter, Morris, and others and that Hari came up with the plan to attack the mosque. Prosecutors said at trial that Hari was motivated by hatred for Muslims, citing excerpts from Hari’s manifesto known as The White Rabbit Handbook.
It wasn’t initially clear how the White Rabbits became aware of Dar al-Farooq, but the mosque was in headlines in the years before the attack: Some young people from Minnesota who traveled to Syria to join the ISIS terrorist group had worshipped there.
Prosecutors asked for several sentencing enhancements, arguing the bombing was a hate crime led by Hari.
Hari, McWhorter, and Morris were also charged in a failed November 2017 attack on an abortion clinic in Champaign, Illinois. Plea agreements for McWhorter and Morris say the men participated in an armed home invasion in Indiana, and the armed robberies or attempted armed robberies of two Walmart stores in Illinois.