The militia leader who's facing life in prison for masterminding the bombing of a Minnesota mosque now identifies as a woman, according to court documents.
Emily Claire Hari — previously known as Michael Hari — is asking a judge to legally acknowledge her transgender identity. Hari, 50, says a combination of gender dysphoria and right-wing misinformation fueled her "inner conflict" during the time that she was convicted of bombing Dar Al-Farooq Islamic Center in Bloomington.
"She strongly desired making a full transition but knew she would be ostracized from everyone and everything she knew," Hari's defense attorney, Shannon Elkins, wrote in court documents. "Thus, as she formed a ragtag group of freedom fighters or militia men and spoke of missions to Cuba and Venezuela, Ms. Hari secretly looked up 'sex change,' 'transgender surgery,' and 'post-op transgender' on the Internet. As she purchased military fatigues for their 'missions' she also purchased dresses and female clothing for a planned trip to Bangkok, Thailand, for male-to-female surgery. She was living a double life."
Elkins cites these as factors in asking U.S. District Judge Donovan Frank to give Hari no more than a 30-year prison sentence — the mandatory minimum for Hari's conviction — and not the life term sought by prosecutors. She has also asked for an amended prison placement based on her transgender identity, but the details of the request are under seal. Elkins could not be reached for comment.
In December, a jury found Hari, of Clarence, Ill., guilty on civil rights and hate crimes charges related to bombing the mosque. Throughout the 2 ½-week trial in St. Paul, prosecutors for Minnesota's U.S. Attorney's Office described Hari as a hater of Islam and immigrants who viewed both as threats to American culture. After the 2016 election of Donald Trump, Hari bid on a federal government contract to build the U.S.-Mexico border wall, which Hari viewed as a symbol of protecting American values. Hari later graduated to violent action, manipulating uneducated and financially vulnerable men from Hari's rural community to help "harass the untouchables."
The list of targets included the Dar Al-Farooq Islamic Center in Bloomington, which Hari told acolytes served as a training and recruiting ground for ISIS.
On Aug. 4, 2017, Hari picked up Joe Morris, 25, and Michael McWhorter, 31, in a rented pickup truck filled with assault rifles, a sledgehammer and a 20-pound black powder bomb and drove to Minnesota. During the trial, Morris and McWhorter told the jury that, under Hari's instructions, they broke open a window to the mosque and tossed the bomb into the imam's office as people gathered inside for a morning prayer. Hari supervised from the truck, and all three slapped a high-five as they sped away. Morris and McWhorter both pleaded guilty to their roles in the bombing and became key witnesses for the prosecution's case against Hari.
"The property damage was collateral to [Hari's] real purpose," prosecutors say in court documents, arguing for the life sentence. "This bomb — the defendant's bomb — was an act of terror intended to destroy the heart of a community."
To that end, they succeeded, prosecutors say. "To this day, the Dar al-Farooq community feels unsafe gathering, praying, and bringing their families to the mosque. With a single calculated attack, the defendant irrevocably destroyed the sense of safety and peace that a house of worship is supposed to provide."
Prosecutors cite Hari's own writings for the motivations behind the mosque attack and a failed bombing of a women's clinic. "There is no more anti-Christian religion, and no more anti-American philosophy on the face of the Earth than Islam," Hari wrote in "The White Rabbits Handbook," a manifesto for Hari's militia. "America is a white, Christian country," Hari wrote.
In her plea for leniency, Elkins describes Hari as a misunderstood "pacifist" who lived peacefully in Anabaptist communities around the world among other cultures. "She is not a 'White Nationalist,' a 'Neo Nazi,' a 'Skinhead,' a 'Boogaloo Boi,' nor part of the 'Arian [sic] Brotherhood.' "
Hari continues to deny taking part in the bombing of which she's been convicted.
Still, Elkins said, at the time of the attack, Hari was influenced by misinformation and conspiracies published by right-wing blogs like Breitbart, World Net Daily and Jihad Watch, and amplified by unnamed elected officials, according to court documents. "This degrading, anti-Muslim, and Islamophobic rhetoric and misinformation has spread throughout the United States over the past several years through social media and the internet," Elkins wrote.
Elkins also asks the judge to consider Hari's advanced age as reason for a 30-year sentence to be sufficient.
"Emily Hari is more than a one-note caricature," said Elkins. "She is a complex human being who has been convicted by a jury of her peers. She will stand before this Court for sentencing, facing life in prison. She asks the Court to consider a sentence that is just and proportionate rather than vindictive or symbolic."
Hari's sentencing is scheduled for Sept. 13.
Andy Mannix • 612-673-4036