MLK Bomb Suspect Pleads Guilty; New Evidence Revealed - Spokane, North Idaho News & Weather KHQ.com

MLK Bomb Suspect Pleads Guilty; New Evidence Revealed

SPOKANE, Wash. – The man accused of leaving a backpack bomb in downtown Spokane pleaded guilty on Wednesday as part of a deal to reduce his sentence and spare both sides from a trial scheduled to start next week.

Kevin Harpham told U.S. District Judge Justin Quackenbush he placed a backpack bomb he spent months constructing on a bench in Spokane on January 17.

A grand jury indicted Harpham on four counts in April, including Attempted Use of a Weapon of Mass Destruction, Possession of an Unregistered Destructive Device, Violations of the Hate Crimes Act and Use of a Firearm in Relation to a Crime of Violence.

If convicted of all counts, he could have faced two life sentences.

Harpham pleaded guilty to two counts on Wednesday.  As part of the deal, the U.S. Attorney's office agrees to recommend a prison sentence of 32 years.  Defense attorneys will recommend a sentence of 27 years.

Judge Quackenbush will issue the sentence on November 30.  Each side has the right to cancel the plea deal if Judge Quackenbush sentences the defendant outside the recommended range.

"Trial is always a bit of a gamble no mater how strong you think your case is," said Michael C. Ormsby, United State Attorney for the Eastern District of Washington.  "This gives our community the opportunity to begin to have closure on this event. "

Defense attorneys did not return a phone call seeking comment on the deal.

Harpham admitted to placing the bomb at the Martin Luther King Unity March because of the "actual or perceived race, color, and national origin of any person" as outlined in the Hate Crimes Act of 2009.

Harpham's indictment is only third time authorities have charged defendants with the act, according to the U.S. Attorney's Office.

Prosecutors told a Federal Judge they found Harpham's DNA on the handle of a backpack bomb found by three city workers before it could explode in January.

FBI agents dissected the device, finding 128 fishing weights coated in rat poison.

The unique weights were traced to WalMart stores.  Agents pulled sales receipts from more than 70 stores across the region when they realized the Colville area store had, ‘an unusually high amount of the weights sold during a one week period in November, 2010."

One of the sales included a bank card issued to Kevin Harpham which agents used to trace their suspect.

Kevin Harpham was arrested while driving away from his Stevens County home on March 9. 

Trial was scheduled to start on September 12.

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