SPOKANE - Documents related to the arrest of a man in the planting of a bomb along a Martin Luther King Jr. Day parade route in Spokane will remain sealed for now.
U.S. District Court Judge Justin Quackenbush said Thursday that he was concerned that release of the documents would make it difficult for 36-ye arold Kevin Harpham to receive a fair trial. Quackenbush said the documents, which include details of the FBI investigation that led to Harpham’s arrest, likely contain information that would in inadmissible in Harpham’s trial, which is scheduled for May 31.
Federal attorneys who also argued that public release of the documents could undermine prosecution efforts have sealed nearly all the information in what’s been described as a case of attempted domestic terrorism. Details of the FBI investigation that led to the alleged white supremacist’s March 9 arrest will remain sealed, and it remains unclear whether the agency is seeking other suspects.
Cowles Publishing Co., which owns The Spokesman-Review newspaper, argued that the public had a right to see the documents. Cowles was joined in the case by The Associated Press and The Seattle Times. Mc-Clatchy, parent company of The News Tribune and The Olympian, owns 49 percent of The Seattle Times.
“There has been no showing of any concrete threat to any on-going investigation (assuming the investigation is continuing),” the news organizations said in their motion.
Harpham, 36, remains in the Spokane County Jail without bail, and a trial date is set for May 31.
Harpham, who has extensive ties to white supremacist groups, is charged with attempted use of a weapon of mass destruction and possession of an unregistered explosive device. He faces up to life in prison. The bomb was discovered and disabled before it could explode.
Harpham is an Army veteran who lives near Addy, 50 miles north of Spokane. His attorneys have taken no position on the effort to unseal the documents.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Joe Harrington argued in court documents filed this week that the danger of impairing an ongoing investigation, the risk of “prejudicial pretrial publicity” and the privacy interests of third parties are sufficient reasons to keep the documents sealed.
Also, Harpham’s right to a fair trial may outweigh the public’s right to pretrial proceedings, Harrington wrote.
The news organizations are seeking release of the affidavit supporting the criminal complaint and for access to the grand jury materials that prosecutors released to the defense as part of the discovery process.
The news organizations contend that since those materials have already been given to Harpham, “there is no longer any obvious justification to keep those materials shielded from the public.”
The government contends the news organizations have no right to grand jury materials.
The Southern Poverty Law Center, which tracks hate groups, has said that Harpham made more than 1,000 postings on a website used by racists called the Vanguard News Network. The SPLC has also said that Harpham belonged to a neo-Nazi group called the National Alliance.
Harpham served from 1996 to 1999 in the U.S. Army at what is now Joint Base Lewis-McChord .
He owns 10 acres of land north of Addy in rural Stevens County. Property records show he bought the land in 1997 and built a small house in 2007.