Ford County men will be tried on Illinois machine-gun charges first

URBANA — Federal prosecutors in Urbana will try their case against four Ford County men before prosecutors in Minnesota proceed with theirs against three of the men accused of bombing a mosque there, a judge ruled Monday.

Both prosecutors and defense attorneys had asked for a 60-day delay in the Minnesota case.

In Illinois, Michael Hari, 47; Joe Morris, 22; Michael McWhorter, 29; and Ellis Mack, 18, all of Clarence, have been indicted for possession of a machine gun.

In Minnesota, the three older men have been charged with bombing the Dar al-Farooq Islamic Center last August, and an indictment needed to be filed by April 25.

“Based on the agreement by the parties and the Defendants’ consent, the Court also finds that the ends of justice served by granting the parties’ joint motion outweigh the best interests of the public and the Defendants in a speedy trial,” wrote Magistrate Judge Franklin Noel of the U.S. District Court in Minnesota.

With the judge’s order, prosecutors now have until June 22 — after the Urbana trial, scheduled to begin on June 5.

The attorneys for both sides said a delay in the Minnesota case would “serve the interests of the Defendants, the public, and justice. In addition, an extension will promote judicial economy.”

“Due to the complexity of the cases pending in each district, the distance between counsel and their clients, and the understanding that the defendants will not be brought to Minnesota until the Central District of Illinois cases are resolved, the parties seek an additional 60-day extension,” the attorneys wrote in a joint motion.

The four men were arrested in Illinois last month on the charge of possession of a machine gun.

If convicted, they each face up to 10 years in prison and a maximum $250,000 fine.

They’re believed by authorities to be part of a homegrown domestic terrorism group led by Hari, a former Ford County sheriff’s deputy and one-time Libertarian candidate for sheriff.

They’re also suspected in the attempted bombing in November of a women’s health clinic in Champaign, but haven’t been charged in that case.

The four men remain in custody.

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