PAXTON — Ford County’s prosecutor has dismissed charges of unlawful restraint and battery filed in 2017 against a former sheriff’s deputy now awaiting trial in federal court in both Illinois and Minnesota for alleged acts of terrorism.
However, State’s Attorney Andrew Killian said Thursday that "when the time is right, it is likely they will be refiled."
Ford County Circuit Court records show that the charges against 48-year-old Michael B. Hari of Clarence were dismissed "without prejudice" at a February hearing he did not attend. Instead, his court-appointed public defender, David Rumley, acted as his representative.
Hari had been charged in Ford County Circuit Court with battery, a Class A misdemeanor, and unlawful restraint, a Class 4 felony, in connection with the alleged assault of a neighbor, Jon-Michael O’Neill, in July 2017. Hari was accused of using an "arm-bar takedown" maneuver on O’Neill to restrain him during an argument over Hari’s loose dogs and then pressing an airsoft handgun against the back of O’Neill’s head as he was being held face-down against the back of Hari’s car.
"I moved to dismiss the Ford County charges to prevent Mr. Hari from attempting to stall his transfer to Minnesota for (his federal) trial and/or create a ‘speedy trial’ issue forcing me to ask that he remain in Illinois until our jury setting," Killian said in an emailed statement. "The charges were dismissed without prejudice, meaning that when the time is right, it is likely they will be refiled, and Mr. Hari will face trial here. Mr. Hari was clearly seeking to use my prosecution as a means to delay his transfer and trial in Minnesota. I took that option away from him."
In fact, four days after the hearing, Hari — apparently still unaware about the dismissal — filed a handwritten motion demanding a speedy trial in Illinois.
In his motion, Hari claimed that removing him from Illinois so he could be tried in the federal case in Minnesota would "complicate" his defense on the Ford County charges. And he said that delaying the case would jeopardize the availability of "evidence and witnesses."
"The Ford County case existed prior to the out-of-state federal charges and Illinois federal charges," wrote Hari, who at that time was in the custody of the U.S. Marshals Service and housed at the Livingston County Jail in Pontiac. "The disposition of the Ford County charges should take precedence over the out-of-state federal charges."
But due to the dismissal, his argument was already moot.
A month after Hari filed that motion, U.S. Magistrate Judge Hildy Bowbeer ordered that his federal trial would begin Sept. 30 at the federal courthouse in St. Paul, Minn. Although unclear, it is believed that Hari will be prosecuted on the Minnesota charges before he is tried in Urbana on those filed in the Central District of Illinois. Hari was no longer at the Livingston County Jail as of Thursday.
In the federal case, Hari is accused of, among other alleged acts of terrorism, planting homemade explosive devices in a shed on the O’Neills’ property in February 2018. An anonymous tip received by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives led to the discovery of the explosives in two black bags.
Hari, the alleged leader of a homegrown domestic terrorism group known as the "White Rabbits," was one of four Clarence men charged in federal court in connection with alleged acts of terrorism both in Minnesota and in central Illinois and Indiana, 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 co-defendants in the alleged hate crimes — Clarence residents Michael McWhorter, 30, Joe Morris, 23, and Ellis "E.J." Mack, 19 — have pleaded guilty to various counts and are awaiting sentencing.
Hari served as a Ford County sheriff’s deputy for 18 months and once had owned a gun store in Paxton. He ran unsuccessfully as a Libertarian candidate for the sheriff’s position in 1998.
In November 2006, Hari was sentenced to 30 months of probation after a Ford County jury found him guilty of abducting his two daughters, a case that received national attention on "The Dr. Phil Show."