The leader of an Illinois anti-government militia group who authorities say masterminded the 2017 bombing of a Minnesota mosque is to be sentenced Monday for several civil rights and hate crimes in an attack that terrified a community.
Emily Claire Hari, who was previously known as Michael Hari and recently said she is transgender, faces a mandatory minimum of 30 years in prison for the attack on Dar al-Farooq Islamic Center in Bloomington. Defense attorneys are asking for the minimum, but prosecutors are seeking a life sentence, saying Hari hasn’t taken responsibility for the attack.
“This bomb – the Defendant’s bomb – was an act of terror intended to destroy the heart of a community,” prosecutors wrote in papers asking for a life sentence. While no one was physically hurt, prosecutors wrote, “the Defendant irrevocably destroyed the sense of safety and peace that a house of worship is supposed to provide.”
Hari was convicted in December on five counts, including damaging property because of its religious character and obstructing the free exercise of religious beliefs. She did not testify at trial and it was unknown if she would make a statement at sentencing.
Mohamed Omar, executive director at Dar al-Farooq, said he hopes Hari gets a life sentence to show that White supremacy won't be tolerated and people shouldn't be deprived of freedom to worship. Omar said he and other community members plan to make victim impact statements at the hearing.
“We just lost a sense of security,” Omar said, adding that Hari's attack made the mosque a “hot spot” for harassment or intimidation and made people uncomfortable to worship. “It became a struggle for us.”
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 she was motivated by hatred for Muslims, citing excerpts 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 sentencing.
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 Islamic State group had worshipped there. Mosque leaders were never accused of any wrongdoing. Hari’s attorneys wrote in court filings that she was a victim of online misinformation about the mosque.
Assistant federal defender Shannon Elkins also said gender dysphoria fueled Hari's “inner conflict,” saying she wanted to transition but knew she would be ostracized, so she formed a “rag-tag group of freedom fighters or militia men” and “secretly looked up ‘sex change,’ ‘transgender surgery,’ and ‘post-op transgender’ on the internet.”
Prosecutors said gender dysphoria is not an excuse and said using it “to deflect guilt is offensive.”
Hari has raised other issues with the court since she has been in custody. Hours after her conviction, Hari called the Star Tribune and said she was going on a hunger strike, calling the trial a “sham.”
Last week, she sought to delay her sentencing, citing upcoming medical appointments for hormone replacement therapy and to treat what her attorney called a life-threatening allergy, but a judge refused. And before revealing her issues with gender dysphoria, she also sued authorities at the Minnesota jail where she was housed, saying she objected to having a female conduct a pat-down search for religious reasons. That lawsuit was dismissed.
Additional reporting by The Associated Press.