'Barefoot Bandit' pleads guilty to 7 federal charges, forfeits possible profits
Colton Harris-Moore, whose criminal exploits in two countries earned him an Internet following and the nickname the "Barefoot Bandit," pleaded guilty Friday to seven federal criminal charges in U.S. District Court in Seattle.
Seattle Times staff reporter
The U.S. government now owns the story of Colton Harris-Moore, the gawky delinquent thief and burglar who will cool his heels in prison while a movie about his exploits as the "Barefoot Bandit" appears headed for a theater near you.
The 20-year-old Harris-Moore pleaded guilty to seven federal felony charges Friday in a plea agreement that recommends he serve between 5 ¼ and 6 ½ years in prison to resolve the federal aspects of his two-year crime spree, including the thefts of two airplanes and a boat and being a fugitive in possession of a firearm.
Still pending are more than 30 state felony charges in four counties, which could add time to Harris-Moore's sentence. San Juan County Prosecutor Randall Gaylord said Friday he expects the state charges will be consolidated at a plea hearing in Island County Superior Court next month.
A 28-page plea agreement filed in the federal case indicates Harris-Moore is negotiating the purchase of his life story for a movie. The government hopes the negotiations succeed — Harris-Moore owes a minimum of $1.4 million in restitution in the federal case, and at least $250,000 in state restitution, prosecutors said.
According to the agreement, any proceeds from Harris-Moore's story will go to his many victims.
"Mr. Harris-Moore's flight from justice is over," said U.S. Attorney Jenny Durkan at a news conference after the plea hearing. "While we cannot stop him from telling his story, we can make sure he never sees a dime for his crimes."
John Henry Browne, Harris-Moore's attorney, said his client does not want money or publicity.
Harris-Moore pleaded guilty to bank burglary; interstate transportation of an aircraft; interstate and foreign transportation of a stolen firearm; being a fugitive in possession of a firearm; piloting an aircraft without a valid airman's certificate; interstate transportation of a stolen vessel; and interstate transportation of a stolen aircraft.
Sentencing is set for Oct. 28 before U.S. District Judge Richard Jones.
Gaylord said the consolidated state case will likely include a first-degree burglary count yet to be filed in Snohomish County, which involves a firearm. That would be the most serious state charge facing Harris-Moore and could land him in prison for more than 10 years.
Gaylord would not discuss the status of plea negotiations in the state cases but said it is possible Harris-Moore could face more prison time than he will on the federal charges.
Harris-Moore's crime spree began in Island County shortly after he escaped from a Renton halfway house in April 2008.
For more than two years, he evaded capture while committing a string of break-ins and thefts, according to law enforcement officials.
After reportedly teaching himself to fly by studying flight manuals and websites, Harris-Moore stole several aircraft, including a Cessna in Idaho in September 2009 that crashed near Granite Falls. He also stole a plane in Indiana and crash-landed it last July 4 in the Bahamas, where he was captured a week later.
He was dubbed the "Barefoot Bandit" because bare footprints were found at several crime scenes. In the San Juan Islands, chalk outlines of feet were found on the floor of a burglarized grocery.
The Internet made the "Barefoot Bandit" a worldwide cult hero — a Colton Harris-Moore Facebook page boasted tens of thousands of followers. The federal charges stem from the following crimes:
• Bank burglary, from the break-in Sept. 5, 2009, at Islanders Bank in Eastsound, Orcas Island.
• Interstate transportation of a stolen aircraft, from the Sept. 29, 2009, theft of a Cessna from Bonners Ferry, Idaho. The plane was abandoned near Granite Falls.
• Interstate and foreign transportation of a stolen firearm, stemming from the theft of a .32-caliber pistol in Canada. Harris-Moore took the handgun into Idaho, then on the plane he flew to Granite Falls.
• Fugitive in possession of a firearm, after Harris-Moore carried a Jennings .22-caliber pistol between Oct. 1, 2009, and May 6, 2010.
• Piloting an aircraft without a valid airman's certificate, from his alleged theft of an airplane from Anacortes, which was flown to Eastsound, Orcas Island, on Feb. 10. The charge is punishable by up to three years in prison.
• Interstate transportation of a stolen vessel, involving the theft of a 34-foot boat from Ilwaco, Pacific County. The boat was sailed to Oregon on May 31.
• Interstate transportation of a stolen aircraft, stemming from the theft of an airplane last July 4 from Bloomington, Ind. The plane was flown to the Bahamas.
Mike Carter: 206-464-3706 or firstname.lastname@example.org
Information from Seattle Times archives
is included in this report.
Information in this article, originally published June 17, 2011, was corrected June 18, 2011. A previous version of this story mispelled the last name of Colton Harris-Moore's defense attorney. His name is John Henry Browne.
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