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Confessed domestic terrorist Kevin William Harpham, facing the likelihood of at least 27 years in prison, became pen pals with notorious racist Glenn Miller after his arrest last March.
Harpham’s sentencing, which had been set for today in U.S. District Court in Spokane, Wash., was continued until Dec. 20 after Public Defender Roger Peven asked during a hearing for more time to explore the federal legal definition of an explosive device.
“Thanks Kevin, for all you give and for all you do for race and nation,” Miller wrote Harpham after his arrest in March for planting a bomb on the route of the Martin Luther King Jr. Day parade in Spokane on Jan. 17.
In another letter, Miller, the former head of the Carolina Knights of the Ku Klux Klan, offered $100 and pledged to start a fund drive for Harpham, a member of the neo-Nazi National Alliance, court documents show.
But Harpham, 37, declined the offer, quoting Alex Linder of the National Vanguard New Network, where Harpham frequently posted racist and anti-Semitic comments.
“Alex Linder once said it is best to just take the public defender and not waste personal money on a trial and that is what I am doing,” Harpham wrote Miller on April 7.
Rather than risk the possibility of life in prison with a jury trial, Harpham struck a plea bargain and pleaded guilty Sept. 7 in U.S. District Court in Spokane to charges of attempted use of a weapon of mass destruction and placing bomb he built to carry out a hate crime.
The bomb built by the former U.S. Army ordnance technician was hidden in a backpack and intended to be detonated with a remote car starter device. But when the suspicious backpack was spotted, the MLK parade was rerouted. Harpham – marching in the parade and taking pictures of minority children and a Jewish man – was never close enough to push the detonator button that he apparently carried in his pocket.
The improvised explosive device, successfully disarmed, met the legal federal definition of a “weapon of mass destruction.” It was made out of 6-inch-long steel pipe with a 3-inch bore hole welded to a steel base plate, similar to a mortar tube. A model rocket igniter, hooked to two 6-volt lantern batteries, was packed with 100 grams of black powder inside the steel pipe, surrounded by 128 fishing weights dipped in brodifacoum, an anticoagulant and an active ingredient in rat poisons.
A search of stores that sold such fishing weights led FBI agents to a Wal-Mart in Colville, Wash., and ultimately helped them identify Harpham as the primary suspect.
As part of the plea agreement with the Department of Justice, Harpham faces a sentencing range of 27 to 32 years. His attorneys are expected to ask for leniency and 27 years, while Assistant U.S. Attorney Joseph Harrington says in court documents the prosecution wants Harpham to serve 32 years.
“The nature of the offense is extremely troubling,” Harrington said in a sentencing memorandum filed with Senior U.S. District Judge Justin Quackenbush, who will impose the sentence.
The bomb “could have led to death and massive injuries to a large number of innocent victims,” said the federal prosecutor, who added that Harpham’s hate crime was intended to “intimidate or coerce a civilian population.”
The prosecutor said Harpham’s background and characteristics “are vexing to say the least.”
As an admitted white supremacist and a member of the National Alliance, “his twisted views are memorialized in numerous posts on the Vanguard News Network forum,” Harrington said.
Several of Harpham’s VNN postings, using the name “Joe Snuffy,” were provided to the court along with video footage taken when FBI bomb experts blew up a replica of the bomb Harpham made.
“Moreover, even since being held pre-trial he has continued to communicate with Glenn Miller, a known white supremacist,” the prosecutor said, filing the correspondence as public documents.
Miller currently lives in Missouri, where he ran for U.S. Senate in 2010 but received just seven votes out of more than 1.9 million cast. His racist activities go back to the 1980s, when he headed the Carolina Knights of the KKK.
In 1984, the Southern Poverty Law Center sued Miller and his “paramilitary army of 300 to 500 members” to stop a campaign of intimidation and violence aimed at African Americans, including a black prison guard who had alleged workplace discrimination against one the group’s members. The following year, a federal court issued a wide-ranging injunction prohibiting the group from engaging in paramilitary training or harassing African Americans. Miller, however, was later found in contempt of that order and sentenced to six months in prison.
Refusing to accept a court-ordered exile from the white supremacist movement, he went underground and mailed a letter to 5,000 people calling for a “total war” against the federal government, black people and Jews.
Miller was arrested again and served three years in prison on a weapons charge. But he also testified against 14 leading white supremacists, including Aryan Nations founder Richard G. Butler, in a seditious conspiracy trial in Fort Smith, Ark., in 1988. For that, many racists view Miller as a “race traitor,” but he remains an active white supremacist.
The correspondence suggests Miller may have learned about Harpham from media coverage of the failed MLK Day bomb attempt.
When FBI agents searched Harpham’s home and possessions he had stored at his father’s nearby resident, they seized numerous racist books and periodicals, newly unsealed court documents disclosed.
The FBI also found a collection of books related to domestic terrorism. When Harpham was arrested by FBI agents, he was in possession of an AK-47 assault rifle and a handgun, the documents say.
Agents also found a surprise: a modified digital clock that could have been intended as a new, improved timing device for another bomb.