A federal magistrate recommends that a judge decline to dismiss charges in the case of an Illinois man accused of firebombing a Minnesota mosque in 2017.
Attorneys for Michael Hari argued in court this summer that the government relied on unconstitutional laws when it indicted their client on five counts related to the bombing, requesting four of the charges be dropped. U.S. Magistrate Judge Hildy Bowbeer, who presided over the oral arguments, recommended against the dismissal Tuesday, saying case law doesn’t support Hari’s claims.
The final decision now goes to U.S. District Judge Donovan Frank, who is overseeing the case. If Frank agrees with Bowbeer, the case could head to trial, likely early next year.
Hari is one of three members of a white nationalist militia they called the “White Rabbits 3 Percent Illinois Patriot Freedom Fighters” who threw a pipe bomb into Dar al-Farooq Islamic Center in Bloomington, according to charges.
The other two, Michael McWhorter and Joe Morris, pleaded guilty in January, saying they meant to send a message that Muslims were not welcome in the United States. Hari has pleaded not guilty.
The indictment states that Hari built the pipe bomb, rented a pickup truck and drove the trio from rural Illinois to the Twin Cities suburb. Morris broke a window of the mosque’s imam’s office, and McWhorter lit the fuse and tossed the device into the building. No one was injured in the attack, which has become a focal point of anti-Muslim sentiment in Minnesota.
In court documents, Hari’s attorneys argued that Congress exceeded its authority in creating federal laws related to damaging religious property or obstructing a person’s free exercise of religious beliefs. Other charges should also be dropped, they argued, because they constituted double jeopardy or were otherwise unconstitutional.
Prosecutors said in August that those claims lacked merit, and on Tuesday Bowbeer concurred.
Hari is also facing charges in Illinois in connection to a failed bombing of a clinic that performed abortions.