Barefoot Bandit receives justice | Editorial

Island County’s notorious Barefoot Bandit was the beneficiary of a fair, decent judicial system when he received a prison sentence of just over seven years Friday for his extensive list of property crimes.

Colton Harris-Moore, now 20, was handed a thoughtful sentence by Island County Superior Court Judge Vickie Churchill. It wasn’t vengeful, as a longer sentence might have been, but it was just while giving Harris-Moore some hope for the future.

Harris-Moore violated the homes of dozens of property owners and businesses, stealing everything from food to boats and airplanes. His exploits became the fodder of celebrity TV shows and gossip magazines. His defense attorneys attributed his anti-social behavior to fetal alcohol syndrome caused by an alcoholic mother and a generally lousy upbringing.

Nature or nurture? Judge Churchill found the common ground, holding Harris-Moore responsible for his deeds while allowing some consideration for his unfortunate upbringing. This is as it should be. Except in the most extreme cases of mental illness, people must be held responsible for their actions. The entire justice system rests on this principle. But that doesn’t mean mercy and compassion have to be thrown out the jailhouse door.

Harris-Moore showed creativity and bravado in his criminal acts. How many of us could read a manual, steal and airplane and survive the landing -- not once but several times? Police agencies from the FBI to the Island County Sheriff’s Office tracked him for months, but he eluded captivity. This is not behavior suggestive of one who has diminished brain functioning.

The Barefoot Bandit’s well-deserved stint in prison could become a new beginning, rather than a brief interruption in a life of crime. Life counseling is available, education is available, and career counseling and job training are available.

Society already has hundreds of thousands of dollars in law enforcement and court costs invested in this young man. We will spend a similar amount incarcerating him for the next seven years. He’d better come out of it a new person who will make positive contributions to society. If not, the next time he meets a judge he should find mercy in short supply.


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