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Judge critical of FBI tactics in MLK bomb arrest

An FBI plan to not tell domestic terrorism suspect Kevin W. Harpham why he was arrested has raised the ire of the federal judge presiding over the case in which the Stevens County man is charged with leaving a bomb along the route of the Martin Luther King Jr. Unity March.

According to documents released today, U.S. District Court Judge Justin Quackenbush expressed his “concerns as to the several hour delay in advising Kevin Harpham of the reasons for his arrest after taking him into custody and also the failure to give the Defendant Miranda warnings during that several hour period,” the record states.

Harpham made no confession or direct admission of guilt during that time. Had he, Quackenbush indicated that he would have not allowed federal prosecutors to use those statements at the trial, set to begin Aug. 22.

Harpham faces several felony charges, including attempting to use a weapon of mass destruction and targeting minorities at the Jan. 17 march in downtown Spokane. At the hearing Thursday, prosecutors revealed that Harpham took photographs of himself at the march, as well as photos of black children and a Jewish man wearing a yarmulke.

Later during the same hearing, Quackenbush closed the courtroom and attorneys called two agents from the Federal Bureau of Investigation to testify about the first few hours after agents arrested Harpham, 37, on March 9. Court testimony indicated that agents did not give Harpham his Miranda warnings, including his right to remain silent.

During that closed hearing, according to court records, Quakenbush “discussed with counsel what appears to be” a violation of criminal procedure “by the Agents refusing to respond to the Defendant’s question as to why he was arrested and the failure to show the arrest warrant to Harpham as required by the Rule,” the record states.

FBI special agent Joseph Cleary explained that agents had planned not to give Harpham his Miranda warnings or tell him why he was arrested as a ploy “to gain Harpham’s trust.”

“Agent Cleary acknowledged that with this procedure the agents hoped Harpham would give a statement and confess to an offense, which he did not,” the record states.

However, about an hour after his 8:45 a.m. arrest, Harpham asked the federal agents how long they had “known” him. The record does not reflect what was said, but describes the conversation simply as “Exchange 1.”

Sometime after they arrived at the Stevens County Sheriff’s Office at about 10 a.m., the agents taped a 10 minute conversation with Harpham without having provided his Miranda warnings.

“No incriminating or inculpatory statements were made by Harpham during that time,” the court record stated.

Harpham asked the recording to stop at about 11 a.m. and agents finally provided him the Miranda warnings. It’s then Harpham gave a statement referred in court records only as “Exchange 2.”

Quackenbush informed defense attorneys and Assistant U.S. Attorneys Thomas Rice and Joseph Harrington that it was his “impression” — without making the final ruling — that the statement Harpham made in the car about how long they had known about him was a voluntary statement and thus admissible.

He ordered attorneys for both sides to provide legal arguments about why he should allow or deny a jury to hear that exchange as well as the second statement Harpham made after receiving his Miranda warnings.



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