Two Illinois men who helped bomb a Minnesota mosque in 2017 got prison sentences far below the 35-year mandatory minimum that they had faced after victims and prosecutors sought leniency because the men testified against the mastermind of the attack, the Associated Press reports. Michael McWhorter, 33, was sentenced to nearly 16 years in prison and Joe Morris, 26, was sentenced to about 14 years. Both testified in the 2020 trial against Emily Claire Hari, the leader of an Illinois militia group called the “White Rabbits.” Hari was convicted and sentenced last year to 53 years in prison for the attack on Dar Al-Farooq Islamic Center, a mosque in the Minneapolis suburb of Bloomington.
U.S. District Judge Donovan Frank said the men's “substantial assistance” allowed him to issue penalties below the statutory minimums. Frank acknowledged the men were under Hari's influence, but rejected their attorneys' requests for 10-year sentences, saying their seven-month crime spree was “contrary to everything America stands for." No one was hurt after a pipe bomb exploded in the imam’s office as worshippers gathered for early morning prayers. Community members were shaken by the incident and the mosque’s executive director testified at Hari's trial that it led to fear and diminished attendance. Imam Mohamed Omar, executive director of Dar Al-Farooq Center, asked fellow clergy and faith leaders to sign an open letter urging forgiveness. Omar called McWhorter and Morris two young men who “temporarily were plunged downwards into the darkness of Emily Hari’s world.” Chris Madel, McWhorter's attorney, said McWhorter committed the crimes “at the invitation, direction and plan” of Hari. Madel said his client was manipulated by Hari's lies about Muslims.