News Local/State

Alleged Militia Members Plead Not Guilty To New Charges

Detail of the exterior of the federal courthouse in Urbana.

Detail of the exterior of the federal courthouse in Urbana. Jim Meadows/Illinois Public Media

Four men from Ford County were in a federal courtroom in Urbana Thursday, pleading ‘not guilty’ to charges related to alleged activities as a militia group called the “White Rabbits”.

Michael Hari (47), Joe Morris (22), Michael McWhorter (29) and Ellis Mack (18), all pleaded not guilty last month to a machine gun possession charge. They returned to federal court Thursday  to make 'not guilty' pleas to a superseding indictment handed down earlier this month by a grand jury.

That indictment added conspiracy charges that accuse them of working together as members of the “White Rabbit” militia, to commit robberies at Walmart stores in Watseka and Mount Vernon, and to rob or attempt to rob suspected drug traffickers in Ambia, Indiana, and also try to extort money from the Canadian National Railroad through threats to blow up tracks near Effingham.

The men, except for Mack, are also charged with attempted arson, for allegedly trying last November to bomb the Women’s Health Practice, a clinic in Champaign where abortions are performed. Again, the plea from Hari, Morria and McWhorter was 'not guilty'.

And Hari pleaded 'not guilty' to charges of illegal possession of firearms, including possession of a firearm by a felon. 

All four defendants come from the small Ford County town of Clarence. Hari is a former Ford County sheriff's deputy, who once ran for sheriff as a Libertarian.

Magistrate Judge Erikc I. Long has set June 5th as a tentative trial date for the four men, following a final pretrail hearing

In a separate case, Hari, Morris and McWhorter are accused of bombing a mosque in Bloomington Minnesota last August. They're to face those charges after their trial in Illinois.