Federal authorities want to block the unsealing of court records related to the arrest of domestic terrorism suspect Kevin W. Harpham.
In a 13-page response Wednesday to a request by The Spokesman-Review, with support from the Seattle Times and the Associated Press, Assistant U.S. Attorney Joseph Harrington argued against unsealing the documents, citing an ongoing investigation and concerns about pretrial publicity.
“It is well-settled that there are qualified common law and Constitutional rights of access to judicial documents,” Harrington wrote. “The right, however, is not absolute … and the public can be properly denied access if there are compelling reasons for keeping records sealed.”
Harrington cited “prejudicial pretrial publicity,” the danger of impairing an ongoing investigation, and privacy interests of third parties involved in the case against Harpham. He faces felony charges of attempted use of a weapon of mass destruction and possession of an unregistered destructive device for allegedly planting a bomb along the route of the Martin Luther King Jr. Day Unity March in Spokane.
The issue is expected to be argued today at a hearing before U.S. District Court Judge Justin L. Quackenbush, who scheduled a pretrial conference to go over a variety of pending matters in the case.
Harrington also noted that the danger of pretrial publicity may be enough to have Quackenbush seal the record until after the trial, which is set for May 31.
Frank Harrill, supervising senior resident agent for the Spokane office of the FBI, said the Harpham case “remains a very active investigation.”
However, he said he could not comment on whether federal investigators expect to file additional charges against Harpham or arrest any one else in connection with the case.
A federal grand jury indicted Harpham, and he’s being held without bail at the Spokane County Jail, facing up to life in prison if convicted.
Harpham was arrested March 9 when federal agents raided the 10 acres he owns south of Colville. Harpham for years had been posting comments on a racist website.
Those postings stopped the day before a bomb was discovered Jan. 17.
Harpham’s father, Cecil Harpham, has said in interviews that his son was with him in Kettle Falls that day.
Subscribe to the Morning Review newsletter
Get the day’s top headlines delivered to your inbox every morning by subscribing to our newsletter