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Two MN mosque bombing suspects plead guilty

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.

ST PAUL, Minn. — Two of three militia members accused of bombing a Minnesota mosque and attempting to bomb an Illinois women's clinic entered guilty pleas today in U.S. District Court.

Michael McWhorter and Joe Morris both pleaded guilty, and face at least 35 years in prison when they are sentenced later.

During the proceeding 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."

Credit: KARE
The defense attorney for Joe Morris says alleged ringleader Michael Hari is like a father figure to his young client.

The 29-year-old McWhorter of Clarence, Illinois, pleaded guilty to five counts in a plea agreement that calls for as much as 38 years in prison when he is sentenced. McWhorter admitted in court that the three men did it to scare Muslims from the country. The pipe bomb thrown into the mosque in August 2017 caused damage, but no injuries.

Credit: KARE
Defendant Michael McWhorter admitted that all three men played an active role in the mosque bombing.

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

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

Jaylani Hussein, executive director of the Council on American-Islamic Relations in Minnesota, is calling for life sentences for the two men who pleaded guilty. Hussein says harsh sentences are necessary to send a message that such acts won't be tolerated.

And Hussein added: "We aren't going anywhere."

RELATED: 3 arrested in connection with Bloomington mosque bombing

The Clarence, Illinois, men faced federal hate crime charges and other counts.

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