A judge on Tuesday handed down the maximum sentence to the man who planned to detonate a poison-laced bomb along the route of a Martin Luther King Jr. Day parade in January.
Kevin Harpham was sentenced to 32 years in prison for the intended attack. Before a U.S. District Court judge made the ruling on Tuesday, Harpham tried to withdraw his guilty plea, saying he only agreed to the deal in September to avoid a possible life sentence. The effort would go unnoticed by the judge, who found Harpham’s apparent lack of remorse deserving of a 32-year sentence, the maximum from the range of 27 to 32 years stipulated in the plea bargain.
On Jan. 17, the 37-year-old placed a pipe bomb along the parade route in Spokane, Washington, where about 2,000 people were celebrating the life of the slain civil rights leader. Inside, the bomb was filled with lead fishing weights coated with rat poisoning, which inhibits blood clotting in humans. 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.
The bomb was discovered and disabled before it could explode.
Harpham argued that he didn’t intended to injure people walking in the parade, but for the shrapnel to hit the side of a building as a show of protest against the multiculturalism celebrated by the parade.
"I was making a statement that there are people out there who don't agree with these ideas," Harpham said, the Associated Press reports. He likened himself to a Christian protesting gay marriage, "but a bit more dangerous or extreme.”
Harpham, who was honorably discharged from the Army and had no previous criminal record, had associations with white supremacist groups. According to the Southern Poverty Law Center, which tracks hate groups, 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 said he intended to seek an appeal, which he has 14 days to file.
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