March 23, 2011 in City

Grand jury indicts Harpham

Evidence is sealed in case against suspected would-be bomber
By The Spokesman-Review
 
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A federal grand jury on Tuesday indicted Kevin W. Harpham on charges stemming from the placement of a bomb along the route of the Unity March on Martin Luther King, Jr. Day in downtown Spokane.

Harpham, who was arrested March 9 as he drove away from his 10 acres south of Colville, is scheduled to appear at 2:30 p.m. today before U.S. Magistrate Judge Cynthia Imbrogno for an arraignment where he is expected to plead not guilty and receive a trial date.

Harpham, 36, could face life in prison if convicted of attempting to use a weapon of mass destruction and unauthorized possession of an unregistered explosive device after a bomb was discovered Jan. 17 at the northeast corner of Washington Street and Main Avenue.

However, all information about how federal investigators identified Harpham as a suspect will remain sealed, said Mike Ormsby, U.S. attorney for the Eastern District of Washington.

“We are just not going to do it now,” Ormsby said. “At this point the public knows the defendant is behind bars. We have an obligation that he gets a fair trial and that’s what we are going to do.”

Roger Peven, executive director of Federal Defenders of Eastern Washington, is representing Harpham. He said information on cases typically is made public after defendants are indicted.

“Obviously the issue of probable cause is no longer a concern because the grand jury has already made that finding,” Peven said referring to the indictment. “Once the discovery process begins we’ll start getting answers to questions.”

Those questions include why the bomb, which included black powder and fishing weights laced with rat poison apparently to act as an anti-coagulant, was not detonated when three men discovered the black backpack just minutes before marchers were expected to pass.

The investigative file should also answer questions about how long Harpham – who wrote more than 1,000 postings to a racist website – had been a suspect and how federal investigators obtained evidence linking him to the bomb.

But at this point, Ormsby said Harpham’s right to a fair trial outweighs the public’s right to know about an investigation that has generated national interest.

“There is information in there that we feel would not be in his best interest to be unsealed,” Ormsby said. “It doesn’t mean it won’t be provided to (Harpham). But public dissemination is not in his best interest.”

Harpham’s father, Cecil Harpham, of Kettle Falls, Wash., recently told KXLY TV that his son was with him when the bomb was discovered. Peven said on Monday that he’s aware of those comments but has not yet “substantially” explored them.

Cecil Harpham has repeatedly refused requests for interviews by The Spokesman-Review and did not return a message seeking comment on Tuesday.


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