News Local/State

Youngest “White Rabbits” Militia Defendant Pleads Guilty

The federal courthouse in Urbana, Illinois.

The federal courthouse in Urbana, Illijois, where Ellis "EJ" Mack changed in plea to "guilty" Tuesday in the White Rabbits militia case. Travis Stansel / Illinois Public Media

One of the four Ford County residents accused of committing crimes to support a private militia group changed his plea to ‘guilty’ in federal court in Urbana Tuesday. Ellis “EJ” Mack has agreed to cooperate with authorities.

Mack, who will turn 19 on Saturday, was a member of the “White Rabbits” militia group, led by former Ford County Sheriff’s deputy Michael Hari, and based in the unincorporated Ford County town of Clarence.

Mack pled guilty to unlawful possession of a machine gun, and conspiring to commit robbery and extortion to raise money for the White Rabbits.

Mack’s three co-defendants, including Hari (47), Joe Morris (23) and Mack’s stepfather Michael McWhorter (29) have pled ‘not guilty’ to the same charges. But unlike Mack, the three are also accused of bombing a mosque in Bloomington, Minnesota last August 5th and attempting to bomb the Women’s Health Practice clinic in Champaign last November, a clinic that, until recently, performed abortions. The mosque bombing is being handled as a separate case. Hari, Morris and McWhorter are to face those charges following their trial in Illinois.

According to a timeline laid out in court by Assistant U.S. Attorney Eugene Miller, Mack joined the militia group led by Michael Hari that would eventually be nicknamed the White Rabbits in the fall of 2017. Beginning in August of that year, the group began gathering weapons and materials for explosives, and made modifications to AR-style weapons to make them fully automatic.

Miller said the group also embarked upon a string of crimes last winter as a way to raise funds. Those included the holdup of a Walmart store in Watseka, a home invasion and attempted robbery of a presumed drug trafficker in Ambia, Indiana (the group tied up the home’s residents but left without finding any cash or drugs), the attempted holdup of a Walmart in Mount Vernon (the group fled when a security guard was called), and the attempted sabotage of Canadian National Railway tracks near Effingham, followed by an extortion message to the railroad demanding payment in cryptocurrency to avoid further damage.

Prosecution documents state that Mack was only present for some of these crimes. On questioning by U.S. Magistrate Judge Eric I. Long, he confirmed that that he practiced with the fully automatic ARs, took part in the home invasion in Ambia and participated in the attempted Walmart holdup in Mount Vernon.

In his plea agreement, Mack agreed to provide information and testimony about the case against his co-defendants. Prosecutors could recommend a lighter sentence in exchange for that cooperation when Mack is sentenced.

Judge Long scheduled a sentencing hearing for Mack for January 9, 2019 at 2:20 PM before U.S. District Judge Sara Darrow. Hari, Morris and McWhorter have been tentatively scheduled to go on trial for their charges in November.