Two US men sentenced to jail for 2017 Minnesota mosque bombing

Prison sentences were far below mandatory minimum after imam sent open letter urging forgiveness

Police investigate the explosion at the Dar Al Farooq Islamic Centre in Bloomington, Minnesota, in 2017. AP
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Two US men who helped to bomb a Minnesota mosque in 2017 were sentenced on Tuesday to less than half of the 35-year mandatory minimum, after victims and prosecutors asked for leniency because the pair testified against the organiser of the attack.

Michael McWhorter was sentenced to just under 16 years in prison and Joe Morris to about 14 years. Both were from Illinois.

They testified in the 2020 trial against Emily Claire Hari, the leader of a small Illinois militia group called the White Rabbits.

Hari was convicted in late 2020 and sentenced last year to 53 years in prison for the attack on the Dar Al Farooq Islamic Centre, a mosque in the Minneapolis suburb of Bloomington.

US District Judge Donovan Frank said that the men's "substantial assistance" allowed him to issue penalties below the statutory minimums called for in the domestic terror case, the Star Tribune reported.

No one was hurt in the August 5, 2017 blast after a pipe bomb exploded in the imam’s office as worshippers gathered for early morning prayers.

But community members where shaken by the incident and the mosque’s executive director testified at Hari's trial that it led to diminished attendance because of fear.

Lawyers for McWhorter and Morris asked Mr Frank for 10-year sentences because of the testimony against Hari. Prosecutors requested leniency because of their co-operation.

“Both Morris and McWhorter have expressed remorse for their participation in the bombing and have accepted responsibility for their actions,” prosecutors said in court filings before sentencing.

“The government acknowledges and greatly respects Dar Al Farooq’s ability to forgive their attackers and to use this act of terrorism as a platform to promote mercy.”

Mohamed Omar, left, the executive director of the Dar Al Farooq Center Islamic Center leads afternoon prayers outside the police tape surrounding the center Saturday Aug. 5, 2017 in Bloomington, Minn.  Bloomington Police and federal authorities are investigating an early morning explosion at Dar Al Farooq Islamic Center. (Aaron Lavinsky/Star Tribune via AP)

Imam Mohamed Omar, executive director of the Dar Al Farooq Centre, sent a letter to fellow clergy and faith leaders, asking them to sign an open letter urging forgiveness.

Mr Omar called McWhorter and Morris two young men who “temporarily were plunged downwards into the darkness of Emily Hari’s world”.

“The harm that was done is real, the crime that was committed is real, the horror of what happened that day is real, but what’s also real is our opportunity to offer real forgiveness and lead by example,” the letter said.

“We believe that only through forgiveness can we have any real chance to heal and move forward.”

McWhorter and Morris pleaded guilty to several counts in 2019.

At Hari's trial, their testimony showed that he told them to throw the pipe bomb into the Dar Al Farooq Islamic Centre while he waited in a rented truck.

Morris testified that Hari told him that the mosque was training ISIS fighters, which the mosque denied and prosecutors never claimed.

Hari was the leader of the “White Rabbits 3 Percent Illinois Patriot Freedom Fighters".

Chris Madel, McWhorter's attorney, said in court filings that his client committed the crimes “at the invitation, direction and plan” of Hari.

Mr Madel said his client was manipulated by Hari's lies about Muslims.

Updated: April 13, 2022, 4:01 AM