Judge delays sentencing in 'Backpack Bomber' case

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KREM.com

Posted on November 29, 2011 at 4:22 PM

Updated Wednesday, Dec 4 at 8:49 PM

SPOKANE-- The U.S. Attorney's Office was expected to argue for the maximum sentence of 32 years for Kevin Harpham Wednesday morning, but the decision was delayed.

The judge granted Harpham's defense team a 20-day continuance at a hearing in the Federal Courthouse in downtown Spokane.

KREM 2's Katie Utehs was in the courtroom Wednesday, when she noticed Harpham appeared like he had lost weight and he had grown a beard.

In the hearing, Harpham's defense discussed the definition of "explosive device." The judge also said that intimidating the public could warrant a longer sentence, but he is not yet ruling. He says that is something to consider in the future, and he discussed the acceptance of responsibility.

After about 20 minutes, Judge Quackenbush said, "Justice is fairness," while quoting another judge. He set a new sentencing date for Tuesday, Dec. 20 at 9:00 a.m.

In their case, U.S. Attorneys point to photos taken by Harpham himself to emphasize the seriousness of his crime.

They argue Harpham’s actions set him apart from similar cases because of his detailed planning of the bomb and white supremacist history.

Photos show numerous racist and domestic terrorism books seized by the FBI at the home of Kevin Harpham’s father.

Federal prosecutors say his history as a white supremacist suggests he will need time to reflect on his actions. They say "it is unlikely that his views will change in the short term and plainly the public needs to be protected"

Other photos show his AK 47 and digital clock modified into a timing device. Photos also show the area where Harpham tested the bomb and which parts he used to create it.

Attachments include surveillance photos placing Harpham along the parade route on the morning of MLK day.

Photos taken by Harpham that day show crowds of African Americans and other minorities.

Federal prosecutors say this clearly demonstrates his targets and supports a 32-year-sentence.

The memo goes on to say his "offenses created a substantial risk of death or serious bodily harm to many innocent persons and were motivated to intimidate or coerce a civilian population. The gravity of the offense cannot be understated."

U.S. Attorneys say in their reasoning for the maximum sentence that "the nature of the offense is extremely troubling. The egregious nature of the defendant's conduct, which could have led to death and massive injuries to a large number of innocent victims, is shocking"

Federal prosecutors say this evidence shows even though Harpham has no prior criminal history he "seriously reflected on his actions and planned to cause public disruption, serious injury, and potentially death."

The defense has argued for a lesser sentence because the bomb never went off. Prosecutors say Harpham’s intentions deserve a 32-year-sentence.

The defense also pointed to others with similar cases getting lesser sentences, but U.S. attorneys say those are not fair comparisons. They say, "It is unclear what other charge those defendants were facing and in neither of those cases did the defendants plan, manufacture, test, or place a function device that undoubtedly could have injured, maimed, or killed innocent people."

Federal prosecutors and the defense previously agreed Harpham's sentence should be between 27 to 32 years.

U.S. Attorneys also point out the greater Spokane and North Idaho area has been a "hot bed" for white supremacy and the court's sentence should deter similar crimes in the future.

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