URBANA — Domestic terrorism suspect Michael B. Hari’s public defenders are asking a federal judge to deny prosecutors’ request to have his trial in Central Illinois postponed until after the conclusion of his trial in Minnesota, noting that the federal government appears to be trying to “manipulate the Speedy Trial Act.”
In a June 3 response to federal prosecutors’ request to have Hari’s scheduled July 15 trial in Urbana delayed, his federal public defenders noted that prosecutors had originally intended to have him tried there first — and even used those intentions to justify asking for a 60-day extension in filing an indictment against Hari in Minnesota.
“In the motion (for an extension in indicting Hari in Minnesota), the parties told Judge (Donovan) Frank (that) Mr. Hari was ‘detained in the Central District of Illinois on the Illinois (charges). ... Pursuant to court order (he) will remain in Illinois pending disposition of (his) case in the Central District of Illinois,’” Hari’s public defenders wrote. “The joint motion went on to say, ‘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 to bring the matter before the grand jury or file an information in Minnesota ...”
Frank later granted the motion for an extension in indicting Hari in Minnesota.
Some six months later — not long after the court had granted Hari’s request to have his trial in Urbana set for July 15, 2019 — Hari informed his public defenders that the U.S. Marshals Service had tried to move him from the Livingston County Jail in Central Illinois to a jail in Minnesota. The move, however, was canceled due to inclement weather.
Hari then filed an emergency motion to stop the transfer, which was later denied by the court. Hari was then transferred to Minnesota.
During a May 20 status conference, Hari stated his intention to go to trial in the Illinois case on July 15 and his decision to file no pretrial motions “or take any action that would toll the speedy trial clock” in the Illinois case, according to his public defenders.
Federal prosecutors, however, argued that Hari should be tried in Minnesota first, with the trial tentatively set to begin Sept. 30. In a May 20 motion, they argued that Hari should be first tried in Minnesota because the Minnesota charges are “based on conduct that predates most of the conduct charged in the Central District of Illinois” and because “the Minnesota charges are factually more serious” and “carry significantly greater criminal penalties.”
On June 18, a judge in Minnesota is expected to discuss with all parties which trial should commence first. It is clear what Hari’s attorneys will argue.
“The government’s position in its motion (to delay the Illinois trial until after the Minnesota trial) is clearly inconsistent with the position it took before Judge Frank when it sought and obtained additional time to file an indictment in Minnesota,” Hari’s public defenders said. “Furthermore, the facts at issue are the same in both the Illinois and Minnesota cases. The government convinced Judge Frank to adopt its position, and the government’s position imposes an unfair detriment on Mr. Hari (by delaying his speedy trial in Illinois) if not estopped.”
Hari’s public defenders also noted that the time Hari has been in custody in Minnesota should not be excludable from the 70-day speedy trial clock in the Illinois case — contrary to what prosecutors have stated. Rather, Hari’s attorneys said, the law requires that the speedy trial clock be stopped in the Minnesota case as a result of Hari’s trial in Illinois.
Hari’s attorneys also noted that Hari should have never been allowed to be transferred to Minnesota before his trial started in Illinois. They said that prosecutors ordered Hari’s transfer under a statute that addresses “imprisonment of a convicted person,” yet Hari “is not a convicted person.”
Hari, a 48-year-old former Ford County sheriff’s deputy, was one of four Clarence men — all believed to be members of a homegrown domestic terrorism group known as the “White Rabbits” — who are charged in federal court in both Illinois and Minnesota in connection with alleged acts of terrorism, including the August 2017 firebombing of the Dar al-Farooq Islamic Center in Bloomington, Minn., and the attempted firebombing of the Women’s Health Practice in Champaign in November 2017.
Hari’s codefendants — Michael McWhorter, 30, Joe Morris, 23, and Ellis “E.J.” Mack, 19 — have pleaded guilty to various counts and are awaiting sentencing.