MLK Parade Bomb-Builder Fails to Overturn Conviction

By Tom Bacon

The Kettle Falls, Washington man who left a backpack bomb along the MLK parade route in Spokane in 2011 tried, but failed, to renounce his guilty plea to terrorism charges. 39-year old Kevin William Harpham is serving 32 years in a California federal prison for building and placing the radio-controlled bomb in downtown Spokane.

FBI agents said the bomb would likely have caused multiple casualties by spraying marchers with shrapnel, treated with an anti-coagulant rat poison.

Harpham, a white supremacist described as a lone wolf, was arrested two months later for attempted use of a weapon of mass destruction. In September of that year, Harpham agreed to plead guilty to setting the bomb, but just before he was to be sentenced in December, he tried to withdraw the plea, claiming that his device did not meet the legal definition  of a bomb.

He tried again, this time with the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals, claiming that his guilty pleas were coerced. But the appeals judges made short shrift of that argument, finding that the trial judge went out of his way to ensure that Harpham's guilty pleas were voluntary and knowing.

The judges also bluntly rejected his contention that the federal law under which he was sentenced is unconstitutionally vague. To understand that the conduct is illegal requires - as the judge put it - only a person of average intelligence.
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