"Barefoot Bandit" plea deal set for Friday in Seattle

Reuters News
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Posted: Jun 16, 2011 10:18 PM
"Barefoot Bandit" plea deal set for Friday in Seattle

By Laura L. Myers

SEATTLE (Reuters) - An accused serial burglar and thief dubbed the "Barefoot Bandit" has agreed to plead guilty on Friday under a deal with prosecutors to settle charges pending against him in federal and state court, lawyers said.

Colton Harris-Moore, 20, suspected in a spree of sometimes-shoeless crimes across nine states, British Columbia and the Bahamas, is due to appear in U.S. District Court in Seattle on Friday for a "change of plea" hearing, federal prosecutors said.

He has pleaded not guilty to six federal offenses and faces dozens of state court charges in three Washington counties.

Defense attorney John Henry Browne said on Thursday that Harris-Moore would enter a guilty plea on Friday to unspecified charges as part of an overall plea agreement resolving the federal and state cases against him.

But Brown said he and prosecutors had agreed not to discuss terms of the deal until after Friday's hearing.

Plea negotiations have been in the works for months. But Browne has said a final deal was complicated in part by the question of whether his client, a high school dropout and self-taught pilot, should be permitted to sell and profit from the rights to his life story.

A federal indictment stipulates that if convicted, Harris-Moore must forfeit the proceeds from "any and all intellectual property or other proprietary rights" to pay about $1.4 million in restitution.

Browne has insisted his client is not interested in profiting from his exploits. But entertainment lawyer Lance Rosen, who claims to represent "all media interests" for Harris-Moore, declined to discuss the status of the case.

"It's a wonderful story, a wonderful drama," he told Reuters. "It's a work in progress, and it's inappropriate for me to comment at this time."

Harris-Moore, who grew up in the Puget Sound community of Camano Island, north of Seattle, is suspected of committing more than 80 burglaries, thefts and other crimes after escaping from a juvenile detention center in April 2008.

Many of those cases involve stolen boats and planes that he allegedly used to hop from one island to another in Puget Sound as he stayed one step ahead of authorities for two years.

He is accused of flying one stolen aircraft about 1,000 miles from Indiana to the Bahamas last year. It was there that he was finally captured by Bahamian police who shot out the engine of a boat in which he was trying to make a getaway.

Harris-Moore was extradited back to Seattle in July to face federal charges.

He has been indicted on a total of six counts -- interstate transportation of a stolen plane, boat and a gun, as well as being a fugitive in possession of a firearm, flying a plane without a pilot's license and burglary of an automated teller machine.

After his hearing in federal court on Friday, Harris-Moore will be transferred to Island County, Washington, for separate proceedings in state court there, Island County prosecutor Greg Banks said.

"I anticipate that he will resolve all of his state charges while in Island County, before he returns to federal court for sentencing there," Banks said.

(Reporting by Laura Myers; Writing by Steve Gorman; Editing by Peter Bohan)