Neo-Nazi Gets 32 Years for Planting MLK Day Bomb

Kevin W. Harpham, the would-be terrorist who intended to bomb a Martin Luther King Jr. Day parade last year in Spokane, Wash., has been sentenced in federal court to 32 years in prison.

The sentencing in December came after the former U.S. Army ordnance technician, a one-time member of the neo-Nazi National Alliance and a jailhouse pen pal of former Klan leader Glenn Miller, pleaded guilty under an agreement with prosecutors to attempted use of a weapon of mass destruction and placing a bomb to carry out a hate crime.

Harpham hid a bomb packed with rat poison-coated fishing weights in a backpack and rigged it to detonate 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 —never got close enough to push the detonator button that he apparently carried in his pocket, police said.

In court, the judge ruled that the device met the legal definition of a “weapon of mass destruction.” His attorneys, however, twice tried to withdraw Harpham’s guilty plea, arguing that his bomb did not meet that definition.

Islam-bashing organizations like Pamela Geller's Stop Islamization of America, which organized major rallies against what was falsely depicted as a "Ground Zero mosque," helped gin up the kind of anger that ultimately translated into a hate crime spike.
At his sentencing hearing, U.S. District Judge Justin Quackenbush scolded Harpham for his racist views, saying, “It is not ‘us versus them.’ It’s us, regardless of our skin color, regardless of our religious views, regardless of our cultural differences. ... I hope that in the years ahead, in the next months, maybe years, you’ll pause and reflect that we’re all inhabitants of this one planet, and, yes, we have disagreements.”

The case against Harpham was only the third time the U.S. Department of Justice has filed a federal hate crime charge under the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act, enacted by Congress in October 2009.