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The Latest: Muslim leader: Life sentence for mosque attack

January 24, 2019

ST. PAUL, Minn. (AP) — The Latest on federal court hearings for two men charged in the 2017 bombing of a Minnesota mosque (all times local):

1 p.m.

A Muslim leader in Minnesota are calling for life in prison for two men who admitted bombing a mosque.

Michael McWhorter and Joe Morris, both from Clarence, Illinois, pleaded guilty Thursday in federal court to five counts stemming from the 2017 attack. Their pipe bomb damaged the Dar al-Farooq mosque in the Minneapolis suburb of Bloomington but did not hurt anyone.

The two men admitted in guilty pleas that they hoped to intimidate Muslims into leaving the U.S. They face at least 35 years in prison.

Jaylani Hussein is executive director of the Council on American-Islamic Relations in Minnesota. He says life sentences are necessary to send a message that such acts won’t be tolerated.

And Hussein added: “We aren’t going anywhere.”

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12:30 p.m.

A second militia member has pleaded guilty in the 2017 bombing of a Minnesota mosque.

Joe Morris pleaded guilty Thursday in federal court in Minneapolis to the same five counts as a co-defendant, Michael McWhorter, admitted earlier. Both men face at least 35 years in prison when they are sentenced later.

Morris’ attorney, Robert Richman, blamed a third defendant, Michael Hari, for corrupting the 23-year-old Morris. Prosecutors have portrayed Hari as the ringleader of the attack on the Dar al-Farooq Islamic Center in Bloomington, a suburb of Minneapolis.

Richman says the 47-year-old Hari was a father figure whom Morris had known since age 9. Richman says Hari “essentially weaponized Joe Morris.”

Prosecutors say the men were members of an Illinois militia that called itself the “White Rabbits.”

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11:15 a.m.

A militia member accused of bombing a Minnesota mosque and attempting to bomb an Illinois women’s clinic has pleaded guilty to his role in the attacks.

Twenty-nine-year-old Michael McWhorter of Clarence, Illinois, pleaded guilty to five counts on Thursday in U.S. District Court in Minnesota. A plea agreement calls for as much as 38 years in prison when he is sentenced later.

McWhorter and two other men are accused of attacking Dar al-Farooq Islamic Center in Bloomington, Minnesota. McWhorter admitted that the men did it to scare Muslims from the country. The pipe bomb thrown into the mosque in August 2017 caused damage, but no injuries.

In the Illinois attack, a pipe bomb thrown into a Champaign abortion clinic in November 2017 failed to explode.

Co-defendant Joe Morris is also expected to plead guilty Thursday.

A third man, 47-year-old Michael Hari, is also charged.

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Two of three militia members accused of bombing a Minnesota mosque and attempting to bomb an Illinois women’s clinic are expected to enter guilty pleas.

Twenty-nine-year-old Michael McWhorter and 23-year-old Joe Morris are scheduled to appear Thursday in U.S. District Court in Minnesota for a change of plea hearing. This typically means the defendants will plead guilty.

The Clarence, Illinois, men face federal hate crime charges and other counts. A third man, 47-year-old Michael Hari, is also charged.

The men are accused of attacking Dar al-Farooq Islamic Center in August 2017. McWhorter allegedly said the men did it to scare Muslims from the country. The pipe bomb thrown into the mosque caused damage, but no injuries.

In the Illinois attack, a pipe bomb thrown into a Champaign, Illinois, abortion clinic in November 2017 failed to explode.

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