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Family seeks leniency for MLK bomb maker

The family of Kevin W. Harpham has asked for leniency, describing the admitted bomb maker as a gentle, intelligent, well-liked young man whose actions puzzled them.

“I know how and what he is,” Harpham’s mother, Lana Harpham, wrote in a letter to U.S. District Judge Justin Quackenbush. “I am very proud to say he is my son. I would want no other.”

The letter is part of a package presented to the court by Harpham’s defense attorneys in advance of his Nov. 30 sentencing. where he faces a range 27 to 32 years in federal prison.

Harpham, 37, pleaded guilty in September to attempted use of a weapon of mass destruction and attempting to injure people in a hate crime. Two other charges — possessing a “destructive device” illegally and using one in a crime of violence – will be dismissed.

The filing also included letters of support from his sister, Carmen Harpham, who declined several previous requests for interviews.

Harpham was arrested in March 9 after federal investigators tracked evidence, including the purchase of lead fishing weights that were laced with rat poison and packed into the bomb as shrapnel.

Harpham has pleaded guilty to attempted use of a weapon of mass destruction and targeting minorities with the bomb he placed on the planned route of the Martin Luther King Jr. Unity March on Jan. 17 in downtown Spokane.

“A sentence of 27 years is sufficient, even in light of the offense,” according to the defense team’s filing. “Mr. Harpham, who has lived an exemplary life until recent events, who has no criminal history, who has been a good son, brother, neighbor, soldier and friend deserves to have this Court take into account the good works that account for the majority of his life.

“He accepts responsibility for his crime and a sentence of 27 years is just punishment for his misdeeds,” the attorneys wrote.

Lana Harpham described how her son dropped out of high school his senior year but later not only earned his GED but also obtained an associates degree in applied science. His classmates honored him with the gift of a leather electrician’s belt.

“He is always watching over those around him and so many times realizes a need before it is even voiced,” she wrote.

Carmen Harpham wrote that her brother is four years younger and as a result she didn’t spend much time with him until they became adults.

“Kevin has never really shared his feelings with me, but his actions on many occasions have spoken volumes,” Carmen Harpham wrote. “I have never seen Kevin be anything but gentle with both people and animals.”

The letters describe family members attempting to understand how the Kevin Harpham they knew — who went great lengths to care for his father and neighbor — would leave a bomb in downtown Spokane.

“There are many things that I have heard over the past nine months regarding my brother’s actions that I cannot explain,” Carmen Harpham wrote. “While I know we do not share a common philosophy about race, I am puzzled at what brought my brother to this point in his life.”


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