US man jailed over Martin Luther King day bomb plot

LOS ANGELES - A US man was jailed for 32 years on Tuesday for placing a homemade bomb on the planned route of a Martin Luther King Jr. Day march in Washington state in January this year.

Kevin William Harpham, who had been charged with attempting to use a weapon of mass destruction and possession of an unregistered explosive device, pleaded not guilty in September in a deal to avoid life behind bars.

At a sentencing hearing Monday his lawyer sought to withdraw the guilty plea, but the judge rejected that and sentenced him to the maximum allowed under the September deal of between 27 and 32 years in prison.

"It is very important that Mr. Harpham receive the significant sentence that he did today to send the message to our community that hate and violence will not be tolerated," said Michael Ormsby, the US attorney for the eastern district of Washington.

"Acts of hate like this one have no place in our country in the year 2011, but ... unfortunately, we continue to see attempted violence in our communities due to racial animus," added assistant attorney general Thomas Perez.

Harpham will serve the rest of his life under court supervision after being released from prison, the district attorney's office.

Harpham, a resident of rural Colville in the northwestern US state, planned to cause an explosion by planting the device on the route of a January 17 march in Spokane, Washington.

A cleanup crew found the bomb in a backpack shortly before the parade honoring the US civil rights hero was due to get underway. Police quickly re-routed the parade.

The 37-year-old admitted in September to attempting to use a weapon of mass destruction and attempting to cause injury with an explosive device because of actual or perceived race, color and national origin.

"This case underscores the continuing threat from those who seek to express their hatred through violence and the serious consequences these individuals face for such actions," said assistant attorney general Lisa Monaco.

Laura M. Laughlin, in charge of the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) Seattle office, added: "Today, Mr. Harpham faces the consequences of his hate-filled act.

"A prototypical 'lone wolf' such as Mr. Harpham presents a particularly vexing threat - with nothing foreshadowing a carefully planned attack," she added.