"Barefoot Bandit" faces sentencing for 2-year crime spree

Reuters News
Posted: Dec 19, 2011 3:29 AM
"Barefoot Bandit" faces sentencing for 2-year crime spree

By Laura L. Myers

COUPEVILLE, Wash (Reuters) - The convicted serial burglar dubbed the "Barefoot Bandit" was due in court on Friday for sentencing on 33 charges stemming from his two-year crime spree as a sometimes shoeless teenage runaway in Washington state.

Colton Harris-Moore, 20, already has agreed to plead guilty to burglary and other offenses at the hearing before a superior court judge in the Puget Sound hamlet of Coupeville, about 60 miles northwest of Seattle on Whidbey Island.

The plea deal caps months of bargaining between prosecutors and attorneys for the high school dropout and self-taught pilot who stayed one step ahead of the law as he broke into dozens of homes and stole cars, boats and planes across nine states and British Columbia.

Captured in the Bahamas in July 2010 after crash-landing a stolen aircraft he had flown from Indiana, Harris-Moore pleaded guilty in June of this year to federal charges aimed at resolving all but the Washington state criminal cases pending against him.

As part of that agreement, Harris-Moore forfeited his ability to profit from the rights to his life story. He also signed a movie deal with 20th Century Fox earmarking $1.3 million in proceeds as restitution to his victims.

He still faces up to 6-1/2 years in prison when he is sentenced in January in federal court.

But that sentence is to be served concurrently with the state prison term that Superior Court Judge Vickie Churchill decides on Friday, after Harris-Moore pleads guilty to 33 charges total from Island, Snohomish and San Juan counties.

A fourth Washington state jurisdiction, Skagit County, has dismissed two charges it had brought against Harris-Moore.

A prosecutor in Cody, Wyoming, has indicated to local media that Harris-Moore faced additional charges there but did not return repeated phone calls from Reuters.

Island County Prosecutor Greg Banks said he was seeking a prison sentence of nine years and eight months for Harris-Moore's guilty plea to all 33 charges.

Defense lawyer John Henry Browne said he would press for a six-year sentence and present testimony from a Seattle psychiatrist, Dr. Richard Adler, that Harris-Moore suffers post-traumatic stress disorder from a troubled childhood.

Browne said his client had composed a "beautiful" letter that he may read in court before he is sentenced.

Harris-Moore, who grew up on Puget Sound's Camano Island, was identified by authorities as a suspect in a wave of 80 crimes, including several plane thefts, after escaping from a juvenile detention center in April 2008.

Shoeless footprints, some outlined in chalk, were left behind at the scenes of a number of his crimes, leading authorities to refer to him as the barefoot bandit.

Browne said Harris-Moore has asked that his mother, Pam Kohler, not be present for Friday's proceedings.

(Writing by Steve Gorman; Editing by Jerry Norton)