Less than a week after 36-year-old Kevin Harpham was arrested for allegedly attempting a racially motivated bombing of a 2011 Martin Luther King Jr. parade in Spokane, white supremacist leader Glenn Miller sent him a letter offering to help start a legal fund on his behalf.
“Keep your chin up and stay strong,” Miller wrote in a letter dated March 14, telling Harpham that he and other members of an online white supremacist forum believed he’d “been set up.”
Ten months later — despite the array of evidence against Harpham and the fact that he pled guilty last month — Miller remains convinced of his innocence. In a half-hour conversation with TPM — interrupted only by Miller’s questions for this reporter (“What do you think of Ron Paul’s treatment by the media?” and “Are you a Jew, by the way?”) — Miller explained his relationship with Harpham and why he thought he was too smart to commit the hate crime he’s accused of.
“I don’t believe he was guilty of that, but I believe he was convinced by his attorneys and prosecutors and common sense that he would be convicted no matter what,” Miller, 71, told TPM in a phone interview from his home. “It just happens so frequently to people who are involved in the white rights movement.”
Federal prosecutors used Miller’s jailhouse letter and Harpham’s response — in which he said he might have Miller screen individuals as he looked for “someone to house sit for a while” — as one of the factors that “supports the imposition of a sentence that will maximize the time the Defendant is incarcerated and subject to judicial oversight.”
Evidently Harpham’s lawyers soon informed him it probably wasn’t a good idea to be sending letters to a well-known white supremacist while in jail accused of a hate crime, as he didn’t respond to any of Miller’s follow up letters.
“He’s kind of let me know he doesn’t want anything to do with me,” Miller said. “It’s not in his self interest to associate with me, and I can understand that, can’t you?”
Miller is speaking from experience here. Back in the 80’s he went on the run after violating a court order (which stemmed from a lawsuit filed by the Southern Poverty Law Center) to stop operating a paramilitary organization. He served three years in jail and testified against 14 other leading white supremacists in a 1988 sedition trial. Miller has since written a book and been active in the white power movement online. He said he wrote about three letters to Harpham suggesting various forms of help, including serving as a character witness.
“In one letter I suggested that I could maybe be a witness for him and testify that, you know, I’d been conversing with him on the Internet for years, he contributed to my newspaper project — proving that he wanted to work within the system, legal action, legal activity,” Miller said.
“He sent me hundreds of dollars to help out with that, which in my mind proves he wanted to be legal. And he was an intelligent guy, he’s not no dummy. He was an intelligent man. Brilliant, you might even say. I had a very strong opinion of his intellect, and most other people did on our VNN forum,” Miller said, referring to the Vanguard News Network white supremacist forum.
Miller also said he doesn’t believe Harpham would have targeted African-Americans.
“He was more of an anti-Semite than an anti-black racist,” Miller said. “He focused on what the Jews were doing to us, rather than what blacks do to us. Blacks, they have little power except what the Jews allow them to have. Jews call the shots. But white people, we have no power at all. We have nobody representing us, we have no leaders, we have no organization, we have no unity, no solidarity, we’re not even allowed to complain about our extinction.”
Harpham was ultimately sentenced to 32 years in jail on Dec. 20. But since then his defense team has been trying to withdraw his guilty plea because a new expert says the device didn’t fit the technical definition of a weapon of mass destruction.
Federal judge Justin L. Quackenbus this week shot down the motion, which was filed because a “new ‘expert’, Frederic Whitehurst argued that the backpack device “is not a bomb, grenade or missile but a ‘firearm’.” Whitehurst did not respond to TPM’s request for comment through the National Whistleblowers Center, which lists him as a speaker.
Friends and family of Harpham, who was tracked down because Wal-Mart turned over data on the sales of fishing weights that were used in the attack, had told a judge that the hateful man described in evidence doesn’t match up with the Kevin Harpham they knew. Much of the information — including the photos in this post of Harpham at parade and various white supremacist literature found in his home — was included in filings recently made public in the case, which had been mostly conducted under seal.
His aunt described him as a “well-behaved and well mannered” boy who enjoyed snowboarding and paragliding. His mom said he loved animals from “the time he was old enough to know what animals were.” The mother of his high school friend said Harpham had an “adversity to conflict.”
His brother Carmen said Harpham was “not one to brag on himself” but that he helped out his dad and elderly neighbor with various errands. He couldn’t understand what went wrong.
“There are many things that I have heard over the past nine months regarding my brother’s actions that I cannot explain,” Carmen Harpham wrote in a letter to a federal judge ahead of his sentencing. “While I know we do not share a common philosophy about race, I am puzzled at what brought my brother to this point in his life.”