Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Kevin Harpham Sentenced To 32 Years In Prison For MLK Day Backpack Bomb After Unsuccessful Attempt To Withdraw Guilty Plea

On December 20th, 2011, the Justice Department announced that Kevin Harpham has been sentenced to 32 years in prison for the placement of the improvised explosive device alongside the planned MLK Day Unity March held in Spokane, WA on January 17th, 2011. After his release from prison, Harpham will serve the rest of his life under court supervision. Harpham pleaded guilty on September 7th to two counts of a superseding indictment; attempted use of a weapon of mass destruction and attempt to cause bodily injury with an explosive device because of actual or perceived race, color and national origin of any person. Media stories published by KREM Channel 2, the Spokane Spokesman-Review, and KHQ Channel 6, and KXLY Channel 4. Also read the extended VNN Forum thread on this case for more information. KXLY news video embedded below:

But before sentence was pronounced, Harpham's attorney Roger Peven attempted to withdraw Harpham's guilty plea. Peven claimed they had found an expert that would testify the pipe bomb Harpham left at Washington and Main did not meet the definition of a bomb or other similar device. The expert was a former FBI agent who would have testified that the backpack bomb was not an “explosive device,” the key word being “explosive”. After Judge Justin Quackenbush denied the request, a direct exchange between Harpham and Judge Quackenbush took place during which Harpham claimed that he did not intend for the bomb to inflict mass casualties, but merely to blow out the windows of the Eye Care Center across the street as a protest against MLK Day and the false unity of multiculturalism. But because the device was in a backpack that had been cut to allow the insertion of the wooden-framed, 6-inch steel pipe loaded with 128-quarter ounce weights coated with rat poison to act as an anti-clotting agent, neither the prosecution nor the judge was buying the story. Thus Judge Quackenbush, despite his initial inclination to hand down only a 27-year sentence, decided to give Harpham the maximum 32 years despite the fact that Harpham previously had a clean record, criticizing Harpham for his unrepentant attitude and his unwillingness to take responsibility for his actions.

As a parting shot, Judge Quackenbush gave Harpham a short diversity lecture, saying “As citizens of this country … it’s not us versus them. It’s us, regardless of our color, regardless of our political views, religious beliefs or heritage”. Harpham says he intends to appeal.

The Spokesman-Review story summarized how Kevin Harpham was caught. After FBI agents secured the bomb and found the lead weights, they traced the purchase of several of the weights to a Walmart in Colville, where Harpham’s debit card was used to buy them. Then between February 25th and March 4th, agents identified 1,139 postings by Harpham on the Vanguard News Network Forum under the user name “Joe Snuffy”, although they did not reveal how they connected Harpham with "Joe Snuffy". Then on February 28th, investigators obtained Harpham’s DNA profile from samples he provided while serving in the U.S. Army from 1996 to 1999. Within days, the FBI had DNA linking Harpham to the strap of the backpack that contained the bomb. Harpham’s 10 acres near Addy was placed under heavy surveillance, which ultimately included police agents masquerading as road crews.

But because Harpham rarely traveled from his home, agents decided to force the issue after they learned he was looking to buy another car. In an attempt to lure him out, they set up a fake online advertisement as a ruse. On March 9th, when Harpham drove away from his home to the fake car deal, members of the FBI’s crack Hostage Rescue Team and the Seattle SWAT team masquerading as road crews intercepted and arrested him.

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