Alleged Spokane MLK Day bomber Kevin W. Harpham was affiliated with the neo-Nazi group the National Alliance, which believes, among other things, that "Zionist connections" to the U.S. government are responsible for the 9/11 terrorist attacks. But the jury in Harpham's trial, scheduled to begin in less than a month, will be kept in the dark about the defendant's virulent anti-Semitic views, because the judge in the case ruled yesterday that they are inadmissible evidence.
Judge Justin Quackenbush granted a request from Harpham's public defender that "Evidence of Alleged Anti-Semitism" be withheld during the trial. Harpham's attorneys argued that his anti-Semitic beliefs are irrelevant because being Jewish is technically a religion, not a "race" like being white, black, or Asian. Quackenbush agreed, writing that "common ancestry is not required to be Jewish" and that "persons of the Jewish faith are clearly not defined by race."
The judge notes that "there is no question" that the federal hate-crime law covers violence that specifically targets people of Jewish, Muslim, Hindu, Christian, and other faiths, but he points out that federal prosecutors failed to cite religion "as a basis for the hate crime" in their indictment. In other words, a legal technicality helped Harpham escape being outed in court as a Jew-hater.
As reported by the Southern Poverty Law Center, Harpham posted messages on the anti-Semitic website for the Vanguard News Network and on another site, discussing his experience watching the 9/11 truther conspiracy film Loose Change.
"I typically don't buy into these conspiracies, then my friends told me to watch this video," Harpham allegedly wrote. "Some of the stuff was speculation, but overall it changed my opinion greatly.''
Court documents reference several other online postings made by Harpham, but offer little in the way of detail. Judge Quackenbush--who also rebuked the FBI for failing to read Harpham his Miranda rights after he was arrested--ruled that some of Harpham's Internet ramblings are admissible as evidence as long as they are partially redacted.
Despite their flub, prosecutors still have a wealth of evidence at their disposal that they can use to convict Harpham. When the FBI searched Harpham's home in rural Stevens County, 50 miles outside of Spokane, they found copies of the books Pipe and Fire Bomb Designs, The Anarchist Cookbook, and The Improvised Munitions Black Book.
Harpham served in the army, and was stationed at Fort Lewis in 1996-97 as part of the 1st Battalion, 37th Field Artillery Regiment.
Here's the full text of Judge Quackenbush's ruling: