This undated photo provided by the Sherburne County Jail shows Joe Morris. (Sherburne County Jail via Minnesota Public Radio via AP, File)
A self-identified militia member testified this week that he was the reason an attempted abortion clinic bombing in 2017 failed, saying he deliberately sabotaged a homemade explosive because he “didn’t feel right.”
Joe Morris is a key witness in the trial against Michael Hari, who led a militia known as the “White Rabbits,” based in central Illinois, the Star Tribune reported Monday. Morris, who says he was a member of the White Rabbits, is facing charges related to both the attempted clinic bombing, in Champaign, Illinois, and the bombing of the Dar Al-Farooq mosque in Bloomington, Minnesota, later in 2017. Hari has pleaded not guilty to several federal charges, including hate crimes. But Morris has pleaded guilty to similar charges and has agreed to cooperate with the prosecution.
Morris told jurors that in the attempted abortion clinic attack, he intentionally left some masking tape on the bomb at the last minute, according to the Star Tribune. Although the bomb was lit and tossed into the Women’s Health Practice in Champaign, it didn’t go off; a staffer found it in the clinic the next day.
“I didn’t feel right in doing what I was about to do,” Morris testified about the incident.
During cross examination, a defense attorney for Hari sought to poke holes in Morris’ credibility, bringing up his history of mental illness and asking him whether he thought his cooperation would result in a reduced sentence, the Star Tribune reported. Morris acknowledged he’d been diagnosed with schizophrenia, although he is now on medication, and said that he does hope for a shorter sentence. The defense also said there had been discrepancies in Morris’ memories in the past.
In August of 2017, a bomb was thrown into the Dar Al-Farooq Islamic Center, setting off a seven-month investigation that led prosecutors to zero in on Hari, Morris, and one other man, Michael McWhorter. Charged in March 2018, McWhorter told federal agents that the three men wanted to “show” Muslims that, “Hey, you’re not welcome here,” the Washington Post reported.
McWhorter has also pleaded guilty and is cooperating with the prosecution. In the initial complaint against the three men, McWhorter said he threw the bomb, while Hari made the bomb and drove them to the mosque, according to the Washington automate your posting.
Even though people had gathered in the mosque to pray, no one was injured or killed in the explosion, which took place three months before the attempted bombing at the abortion clinic, according to prosecutors. Still, they told jurors early in Hari’s trial that the explosion hurt the community.
“That bomb forever and irrevocably changed their right to freely exercise their religion in America,” Assistant U.S. Attorney Allison Ethen said, the Star Tribune reported. “This case is about hatred. It’s about prejudice.”