'Barefoot Bandit' may return to Island County for more charges
By JESSIE STENSLAND
Whidbey News Times Assistant editor
November 19, 2010 · Updated 1:23 PM
Colton Harris-Moore, the so-called "Barefoot Bandit," could be in Island County early next year, or even sooner, to face charges related to burglaries on Camano Island that started his alleged international crime spree, according to Island County Prosecutor Greg Banks.
Harris-Moore, a 19-year-old former Camano resident, pleaded not guilty Thursday to five federal charges in U.S. District Court in Seattle. His trial was set for Jan. 18.
Banks said Island County should get first crack at Harris-Moore after the federal charges are resolved. He's wanted on a $500,000 arrest warrant out of Island County on 10 charges related to Camano Island burglaries, thefts, vandalism and a car chase.
Harris-Moore's attorney, John Henry Browne of Seattle, has been pushing for a global plea bargain that would incorporate all the charges his client is facing. In an odd development, the Seattle P-I reported that Browne threatened to "bankrupt" Island County with a lengthy trial if Banks refused to go along with the wide-ranging plea bargain.
While county officials are concerned about a potential media circus, Banks said the idea that a trial could bankrupt the county is nonsense.
"I think we can handle a trial on a bunch of burglaries. It wouldn't be that expensive," said Banks, who speculated that an encampment of media in Coupeville could be good for the economy.
Banks said he hasn't even discussed the idea of universal plea bargain with anyone. Browne has never even contacted him. Federal authorities haven't asked him to participate in a plea bargain.
Still, Banks is convinced that it would be best to handle the county's case in the county. He explained that federal courts don't have jurisdiction over the crimes that Harris-Moore allegedly committed in Island County.
But in fact, Banks said he has had very preliminary discussions with prosecutors in the San Juans and other counties where the Barefoot Bandit struck to possibly try all the cases together, maybe in Island County. Superior courts do have jurisdiction over crimes that occur in any county in the state.
The Seattle P-I reported that charging papers indicate federal investigators believe Harris-Moore is a suspect in more than 80 crimes across the country. Most notoriously, the self-taught pilot is accused of stealing aircraft, boats and at least one gun. His long run from the law came to an end on July 11, when police in the Bahamas arrested him with a stolen boat after he allegedly crashed a stolen airplane.
Harris-Moore was dubbed the "Barefoot Bandit" because he allegedly committed burglaries without shoes or socks. He has gained national fame and even a social network following during his time on the lam.Contact Whidbey News Times Assistant editor Jessie Stensland at firstname.lastname@example.org or 360.675.6611 ext. 5056.