SPOKANE, Wash. — A man with extensive ties to white supremacists was sentenced 32 years in prison after pleading guilty to planting a bomb intended to shower poison-laced shrapnel onto Martin Luther King Jr. Day parade marchers.
Kevin Harpham, 37, was given the maximum in the sentencing range of 27 to 32 years. He told U.S. District Court Judge Justin Quackenbush then that he placed the device along the parade route in an attempt to commit a hate crime.
The pipe bomb was loaded with lead fishing weights coated in rat poison, which can inhibit blood clotting in wounds, officials have said. The bomb was discovered and disabled before it could explode.
Just hours before he was scheduled to be sentenced, Harpham tried unsuccessfully to withdraw his guilty plea. His defense questioned whether the explosive device in question met the legal definition of a bomb.
The parade on Jan. 17 drew a crowd of about 2,000 adults and children on a cold winter morning. It was forced onto an alternative route after the bomb was found. Harpham walked in the parade and took pictures of young black children and of a Jewish man who was wearing a yarmulke, prosecutors have said.
Prosecutors said Harpham acted alone. He was arrested March 9 at his rural home near Addy, Wash.
A plea deal charged Harpham with attempted use of a weapon of mass destruction, and the hate crime of placing the bomb in an effort to target minorities. Dropped were charges of using a firearm in relation to a crime of violence and unauthorized possession of an unregistered explosive device. If convicted, he could have faced up to life in prison.
Harpham is an Army veteran who has extensive ties to white supremacist groups but no record of past crimes.
The Southern Poverty Law Center, which tracks hate groups, has said that Harpham made more than 1,000 postings on the Vanguard News Network, a white supremacist website. The center also has said that Harpham belonged to a neo-Nazi group called the National Alliance.
Harpham served from 1996 to 1999 in the Army at what is now Joint Base Lewis-McChord, near Tacoma. His lawyers have said Harpham had not been recently employed.
He has remained in the Spokane County Jail without bail since his arrest. Under the deal, Harpham would remain on probation for the rest of his life once he leaves prison.