Barefoot Bandit is headed to Island County
By JESSIE STENSLAND
Whidbey News Times Assistant editor
June 20, 2011 · Updated 6:20 AM
Colton Harris-Moore, the so-called Barefoot Bandit, could be sitting in Island County jail in Coupeville within a month or so.
Harris-Moore, a 20-year-old former Camano Island resident, pleaded guilty to seven federal criminal charges Friday in U.S. District Court in Seattle.
Island County Prosecutor Greg Banks said he expects Harris-Moore to be transferred to Island County to face state charges during the estimated three-month interval between plea and sentencing in federal court.
“Our goal is to bring him here as soon as we can, but that’s going to require accommodating a lot of schedules,” Banks said.
The 32 or more charges Harris-Moore is facing for his alleged crimes in four Washington counties will all likely be resolved in Island County Superior Court. Banks said he’s been working with prosecutors from San Juan, Skagit and Snohomish counties on an across-the-board plea bargain with Harris-Moore’s defense attorneys.
County officials are already planning for the media circus Harris-Moore may attract to Coupeville. They may set up a TV with a live feed to the county commissioners’ hearing room to deal with an overflow crowd.
Harris-Moore rose to international notoriety during a two-year, cop-evading crime spree. He initially escaped from a Renton halfway home and returned to Camano Island, where he allegedly burglarized homes and stole from residents. Harris-Moore then traveled to other counties, and eventually other states, and added the theft of airplanes and boats to his criminal resume.
Harris-Moore’s alleged crimes didn’t end until his arrest in the Bahamas in the summer of 2010. Harris-Moore is believed to have fled the United States in a plane stolen in Indiana.
Island County Sheriff Mark Brown said he’ll be pleased when the final chapter of the Barefoot Bandit story is closed.
“I’ll just be happy when he’s finally sentenced for what he’s done to the community on Camano Island,” the sheriff said. “I’ve talked to so many victims who’ve been traumatized by his invasion of their personal, private space. Harris-Moore seemed to have this haunting ability to go in and out of people’s homes. It’s such a huge violation.”
Banks said he’s not sure when Harris-Moore earned the “Barefoot Bandit” moniker, though he heard that a deputy claimed Harris-Moore was shoeless and sockless during a foot chase. The prosecutor said there was no evidence Harris-Moore was barefoot in any of the plethora of cases in Camano Island.
Harris-Moore allegedly starting promoting with his “Barefoot Bandit” image in later crimes. He reportedly drew a picture in chalk of bare feet at the scene of a San Juan County burglary.
The catchy nickname may have helped earn Harris-Moore media attention. He has a huge Internet following, books have been written about him and a Hollywood movie studio already bought the rights to a book. Banks said he’s been interviewed about Harris-Moore by Dateline, 48 Hours, CNN and many other high-profile media organizations.
Sheriff Brown, however, stopped talking to most media sources about the Barefoot Bandit because he felt they were glamorizing the crimes.
Harris-Moore is currently facing 32 charges in three counties, though the Snohomish County attorney hasn’t filed any charges yet; Banks said the Snohomish County cases may be added to the Island County cases. The counts range from airplane theft to identity theft to eluding police. Harris-Moore was charged with stealing a rifle from a car that an Island County Sheriff’s deputy had parked outside his Camano Island home.
Banks said all the prosecutors and Harris-Moore’s attorneys have come to a preliminary plea bargain. He said Harris-Moore will likely spend his incarceration in a state prison.
In the federal case, Harris-Moore is facing up to six and a half years in prison. But it’s possibly, Banks said, that the federal judge would hand Harris-Moore a sentence that would be concurrent, or at the same time, as any state sentence. In other words, it appears likely that the Barefoot Bandit may only serve the sentence he’s given by an Island County Superior Court judge.
Under the terms of the federal plea bargain, Harris-Moore won’t be able to personally profit from his story through book or movie deals, but funds from any deals in the works will go toward victim restitution. His restitution has been estimated at $1.3 million.
In federal court, Harris-Moore pleaded guilty to bank burglary; interstate transportation of an aircraft; interstate and foreign transportation of a stolen firearm; 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, according to the Seattle Times.Contact Whidbey News Times Assistant editor Jessie Stensland at email@example.com or 360.675.6611 ext. 5056.