March 24, 2011 in City

Suspected would-be bomber pleads not guilty

By The Spokesman-Review
Molly Quinn photo

Kevin W. Harpham appeared before U.S. Magistrate Judge Cynthia Imbrogno on Wednesday to plead not guilty to charges that he left a bomb along the planned route of a Martin Luther King Jr. Day march.
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Kevin W. Harpham pleaded not guilty Wednesday to charges that he left a bomb that investigators say could have caused multiple casualties along the planned route of a Unity March to celebrate Martin Luther King Jr. Day.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Joe Harrington simply read in court the indictment that was handed down late Tuesday by a grand jury. Harpham appeared in an off-white jumpsuit with “Spokane County Jail” stenciled on the back.

U.S. Marshals kept his ankles in restraints as he provided only one-word answers to U.S. Magistrate Judge Cynthia Imbrogno, who assigned the case to U.S. District Judge Justin L. Quackenbush. Later Wednesday, Quackenbush set the trial for May 31.

Roger Peven, executive director of Federal Defenders of Eastern Washington, said he has only spoken with Harpham a couple of times and didn’t expect to see the evidence against his client until later Wednesday.

The case remains under seal. Typically, investigative files become publicly available once a suspect is indicted, Peven said. Harrington said the government is seeking to preserve Harpham’s right to a fair trial by keeping the court documents secret.

Although he questioned the move, Peven did not indicate that he’s going to push for federal prosecutors to open the records.

Peven said Spokane County deputies are keeping Harpham largely segregated from other inmates in the jail while he awaits trial.

“He’s in the higher-security portion of the jail than normal based on the seriousness of the charges,” Peven said.

Harpham – who has authored more than 1,000 postings on a racist website – faces up to life in prison for the charge of attempted use of a weapon of mass destruction and possession of an unregistered destructive device. He was arrested March 9 when scores of federal agents raided his home south of Colville.

The bomb, located at the northeast corner of Washington Street and Main Avenue, was discovered by three contract workers moments before marchers were due to walk past.

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