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Former Ford County resident sentenced for crimes related to militia group

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A federal judge has sentenced a former Ford County resident to 14 years in prison for a variety of crimes related to a militia group.

Emily Hari, 51, of Clarence, Illinois, founded and led a group known as the Patriot Freedom Fighters that also called itself the White Rabbits. Prosecutors said the group gathered machine guns, other weapons, and thermite, and committed crimes in Indiana, Illinois, and Minnesota. These include throwing a pipe bomb into a women's health clinic in Champaign and firebombing a mosque in Minneapolis back in 2017.

“Emily Claire Hari represents the very real threat posed by domestic violent extremists in the United States,” said FBI Springfield Field Office Special Agent in Charge David Nanz. “The FBI’s counterterrorism team is designed to combat this type of violence and is committed to prioritize and gather intelligence to continually assess the threat picture."

Hari pleaded guilty to conspiracy to interfere with commerce by threats and violence, attempted arson, unlawful possession of a machine gun, and unlawful possession of a firearm by a felon.

Prosecutors said among the other crimes committed by the group is robbery in Ambia, Ind., Watseka, and Mount Vernon, both in Illinois, and an attempt to sabotage railroad tracks in Effingham, Illinois. Prosecutors said that in 2018, Hari also planted bomb making materials at the residence of a man who had accused Hari of assault, and emailed an anonymous tip to authorities to get the man in trouble.

At the sentencing hearing, U.S. District Judge Michael M. Mihm found that Hari’s crimes were serious and wide-ranging and accepted the parties’ agreement that Hari should be sentenced to 14 years in prison. In December 2020, following a jury trial, Hari was convicted of charges related to the August 2017 firebombing of a mosque in Minnesota, along with two other defendants. A federal judge in Minnesota previously sentenced Hari to 53 years of imprisonment on those charges.

“Although the militia group started by Hari called itself the ‘Patriot Freedom Fighters,’ the members of the group convicted of federal crimes were not patriots but violent criminals,” said United States Attorney Gregory K. Harris. “Attacking innocent citizens and lawful facilities using threats and violence are not the acts of ‘patriots,’ and this conduct will be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law."

Several other co-defendants have also received lengthy prison sentences.

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WGLT Senior Reporter Charlie Schlenker has spent more than three award-winning decades in radio. He lives in Normal with his family.
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