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SHERBURNE COUNTY, MN – A male founder of a militia group who was convicted of bombing a Minnesota mosque in 2017 is now arguing that he deserves a lesser stretch behind bars because he now identifies as a transgender woman and that “gender dysphoria” and “online anti-Muslim content” drove him to an “inner conflict” that caused the attack, court documents say.
Michael B. Hari, 50, was found guilty on multiple charges in December 2020 for his role in the bombing of the Dar al-Farooq Islamic Center in Bloomington, Minnesota, on Augusts 5, 2017. There were no reported deaths linked to the attack, but the Muslim community and supporters were nonetheless outraged by the blatant hate crime.
However, Hari has announced that he now identifies as Emily Claire Hari, and Shannon Elkins, his public defender, is asking the judge presiding over the case to give her client a maximum sentence of 30 years in prison due to his being transgendered, as opposed to the life sentence prosecutors are asking for, according to court documents.
“She strongly desired making a full transition but knew she would be ostracized from everyone and everything she knew,” Elkins said. “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.”
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Hari had formed a terrorist militia group called “The White Rabbits” in the summer of 2017 “to terrorize Muslims into believing they are not welcome in the United States and should leave the country,” prosecutors said; they also claimed that the bombing of the Mosque was intended to be an “an act of terror intended to destroy the heart of a community.”
Two of Hari’s co-conspirators – Michael McWhorter and Joe Morris, both whom pleaded guilty to their individual charges – had testified against him in court.
However, Hari’s defense attorney maintained that her client is not “a ‘White Nationalist,’ a ‘Neo Nazi,’ a ‘Skinhead,’ a ‘Boogaloo Boi,’ nor part of the ‘Arian [sic] Brotherhood’,” and claimed that he was influenced by right-wing online anti-Muslim content published by websites such as Breitbart, World Net Daily and Jihad Watch, as well as politicians that she declined to name.
That, Elkins claimed, combined with Hari’s gender dysphoria, is what drove her client to commit crimes, and is why he deserves a lesser sentence.
“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 said. “Emily Hari is more than a one-note caricature. 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.”