"Barefoot Bandit" faces sentence in wild crime spree

Reuters News
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Posted: Jan 27, 2012 1:58 PM
"Barefoot Bandit" faces sentence in wild crime spree

By Laura L. Myers

SEATTLE (Reuters) - The 20-year-old serial thief nicknamed the "Barefoot Bandit" faces final sentencing in Seattle's U.S. District Court on Friday for his sensational, two-year crime spree as a sometimes-shoeless teenage runway.

Colton Harris-Moore could receive up to 6 1/2 years in prison for the seven federal charges he pleaded guilty to in June, including interstate transportation of two stolen airplanes and a yacht, two bank burglaries, possessing a firearm as a fugitive and piloting an aircraft without a valid license.

Federal prosecutors are seeking the maximum sentence, 78 months, while defense attorneys will asking that he serve no more than 70 months and that he be incarcerated in state prison rather than a federal penitentiary.

Last month in state court in Coupeville, Washington, Harris-Moore was sentenced to more than seven years, or 87 months, for 33 crimes ranging from residential burglary to attempting to elude police.

Through a plea deal, the U.S. Attorney's Office and defense lawyers agreed Harris-Moore's state and federal sentences could be served concurrently -- meaning that with credit for good behavior, Harris-Moore could be released by his 26th birthday.

U.S. District Judge Richard Jones, however, has the authority to order that the two sentences be served consecutively.

Friday's proceedings mark the finale to an extraordinary two-year saga for Harris-Moore, a high school dropout and self-taught pilot who stayed one step ahead of the law as he broke into homes and stole cars, boats and planes across nine states and British Columbia.

His exploits, which prosecutors said included at least 67 crimes, came to an end when he was captured in the Bahamas in July 2010 after crash-landing a stolen aircraft he flown to the islands from Indiana.

As part of his plea deal, Harris-Moore agreed to forfeit any profits from the rights to his life story. He has signed a movie deal with 20th Century Fox, setting aside about $1.3 million in proceeds as restitution to his victims.

During his December 16 sentencing, Island County Superior Court Judge Vickie Churchill called Harris-Moore's case a "tragedy" but also a "triumph in the human spirit" because of his severely-troubled childhood.

Defense documents filed on Thursday argued Harris-Moore "is at a low risk for re-offending and has the will and interest to make a life for himself as a member of the community."

A small commuter airline has communicated with Harris-Moore "about his future after incarceration," the documents stated.

A 39-page sentencing memorandum filed by prosecutors, however, questioned whether Harris-Moore was truly remorseful.

Prosecutors referred to emails and calls by Harris-Moore while in federal detention in which he referred to police as "swine" and "asses," the media as "vermin" and a Washington county prosecutor as a "complete fool."

The defense responded that "quoting and parsing his emails is, frankly, nothing more than an inflammatory attempt to use a cognitively impaired adolescent's thoughts against him."

At his state sentencing hearing, Harris-Moore described his childhood, growing up with an alcoholic mother, as one "that I would not wish on my darkest enemies."

(Editing by Steve Gorman and Daniel Trotta)