Ford County Sheriff’s Office via AP
ST. PAUL, Minn. – The head of an anti-government Illinois militia who officials say organized the bombing of a Minnesota mosque in 2017 was sentenced Monday to 53 years in prison for an attack that terrified the community of the mosque.
Emily Claire Hari, who was indicted, tried and convicted as Michael Hari and recently said she was transgender, faced a mandatory minimum sentence of 30 years for the attack on the Dar al-Farooq Islamic Center in Bloomington. Defense attorneys demanded the minimum, but prosecutors demanded life, saying Hari had not taken responsibility for the attack.
No one was injured in the bombing, but more than a dozen members of the mosque community made victim statements on Monday about the trauma he left behind. US District Judge Donovan Frank said the evidence clearly showed Hari’s intention was “to scare, intimidate and terrorize people of Muslim faith.”
“Diversity is the strength of this country,” Frank said. “Anyone who doesn’t understand this doesn’t understand the constitutional promise of this country that brings a lot of people here.”
“Anything less than 636 months would be a breach of the law,” added the judge.
Hari made a brief statement before being sentenced, saying, “For the blessing of my first 47 years of life, I can’t complain about what the last three looked like… considering my blessed life, lucky and happy, I can’t ask the judge for anything more. “
David Joles / Star Tribune via AP
She also said the victims who testified in Monday’s hearing went through a “traumatic ordeal” and wished them “the richest blessings of God in Jesus Christ.”
Frank said he was prepared to recommend Hari go to a women’s prison, but said the Prisons Bureau would decide.
Hari was sentenced in December on five counts, including damaging property due to his religious character and obstructing the free exercise of religious beliefs.
Mosque members on Monday asked the judge to impose a life sentence, describing their shock and terror at the attack. Some were afraid to pray there afterwards and did not return. Mothers were afraid to take their children to the mosque, which also serves as a charter school and community center.
“I was really scared because I was soon to start school in the same building and we lived six blocks from the mosque,” said Idris Yusuf, who was 9 when the bombing took place. “I was scared because if these people could do that at our mosque, what is preventing them from coming to the Muslims too?”
Afterwards, community members said they saw 53 years as justice for an attack that rocked worshipers for more than four years.
“We were looking for life (in prison), but that’s something we can sort out today,” said Khalid Omar, a community organizer and worshiper of Dar Al Farooq.
On August 5, 2017, several men were gathered in Dar al-Farooq for morning prayers when a homemade bomb was thrown from the window of an imam’s office. A seven-month investigation led authorities to Clarence, Illinois, a rural community about 120 miles (190 kilometers) south of Chicago, where Hari and his co-defendants Michael McWhorter and Joe Morris lived.
Aaron Lavinsky / Star Tribune via AP
Authorities say Hari, 50, led a group called the White Rabbits which included McWhorter, Morris and others and that Hari proposed the plan to attack the mosque. Prosecutors said at trial she was motivated by hatred of Muslims, citing extracts from Hari’s manifesto known as The White Rabbit Handbook.
McWhorter and Morris, who portrayed Hari as a father figure, each pleaded guilty to five counts and testified against her. They are awaiting their conviction.
It was initially unclear how the white rabbits found out about Dar al-Farooq, but the mosque was making headlines in the years leading up to the attack: some young people from Minnesota who traveled to Syria to join the Islamic State group had loved it there. Mosque leaders have never been charged with any wrongdoing. Hari’s lawyers wrote in court documents that she had been the victim of misinformation online about the mosque.
Assistant Federal Defender Shannon Elkins also said gender dysphoria fueled Hari’s “internal conflict”, saying she wanted to make the transition but knew she would be ostracized. sex change “,” transgender surgery “and” post-operative transgender “on the Internet.”
Prosecutors said gender dysphoria was no excuse and said using it “to deflect guilt is offensive.”
Prosecutors have called for several improvements to the sentence, arguing that the bombing was a hate crime led by Hari. They also say Hari obstructed when she tried to escape during her transfer from Illinois to Minnesota for trial in February 2019. Hari has denied attempting to escape.
Hari, a former deputy sheriff and self-proclaimed entrepreneur and watermelon farmer, has self-published books including essays on religion, and pioneered ideas for a border wall with Mexico. She first gained attention on the “Dr. Phil” talk show after fleeing to the South American nation of Belize in the early 2000s during a custody dispute. She was convicted of child abduction and sentenced to probation.
Prior to her arrest in 2018 in the mosque bombing, she used the screen name “Illinois Patriot” to post more than a dozen videos on YouTube, most of them anti-government monologues.
Hari, McWhorter and Morris were also charged in a failed November 2017 attack on an abortion clinic in Champaign, Illinois. The plea deals for McWhorter and Morris indicate that the men were involved in an armed home invasion in Indiana and the armed robberies or attempted armed robberies of two Walmart stores in Illinois.