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Island County joins others in adding 14 charges to Colton Harris-Moore's long list

New evidence and avoiding the statute of limitations lead to additional counts in Island County.

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By Jackson Holtz
Herald Writer
COUPEVILLE -- A few days after someone broke into Island County Deputy Chad Eastwood's patrol vehicle and stole a firearm and other gear, police found some of the stolen equipment at a campsite deep in the woods on south Camano Island.
It was June 2009 and evidence pointed to the island's most notorious son, Colton Harris-Moore, the "Barefoot Bandit."
Eastwood's cellphone was included in the cache of recovered property. Court records filed Tuesday in Island County Superior Court allege a fingerprint on the phone, the right ring finger, matched a set already on file for Harris-Moore.
The fingerprint is part of the evidence described in 14 new criminal charges filed against Harris-Moore on Tuesday in Coupeville.
Greg Banks, the Island County prosecutor, said in an email the additional charges were filed now to avoid a possible statute of limitations and also because new evidence was available.
"These charges are representative of the crimes allegedly committed by Mr. Harris-Moore, and include the victims of the strongest cases," Banks said. "Should the matter proceed to trial, it is possible additional charges would be added."
Last week, prosecutors in San Juan County filed 16 new charges against Harris-Moore.
Harris-Moore's attorneys have said they are engaged in extensive negotiations with state and federal prosecutors from 17 jurisdictions.
"The new charges were anticipated and are part of the attempt to reach a global settlement," said John Henry Browne, Harris-Moore's defense attorney.
Legal experts said the plea negotiations likely will include concurrent agreements in federal and state courts.
A change-of-plea announcement from Harris-Moore is expected by the end of the month.
The Coupeville courthouse is likely to be the place where Harris-Moore, 20, may enter a guilty plea in an effort to settle dozens of state felonies, officials have hinted.
Before a plea agreement can be reached, charges need to be filed, said John Strait, an associate professor at Seattle University Law School.
Harris-Moore now faces five federal charges and dozens of state charges in connection with a two-year crime wave that began in April 2008 when he escaped from a halfway house near Seattle.
That's just a fraction of the total number of crimes Harris-Moore is suspected of committing. Police estimate he's responsible for nearly 100 crimes in nine states and three countries.
He eluded capture until July 2010, when he was arrested in the Bahamas, thousands of miles from his home. Harris-Moore reportedly taught himself to fly small airplanes.
He is accused of stealing five small planes, including a single-engine Cessna that he allegedly took on July 4 from Bloomington, Ind., and later crashed in a mangrove swamp in the Bahamas.
Included in the charges filed Tuesday are allegations that Harris-Moore stole the firearm from the deputy's patrol car, eluded police in a car stolen from his mother's neighbor, broke into people's homes on Camano Island and used their credit cards.
There's also evidence that Harris-Moore ordered expensive electronics off He attempted to have deliveries made to a fake address on his mother's street, police allege.
Evidence also connects him to the theft of a $12,000 thermal imaging camera from a Camano Island fire station.
Harris-Moore earned the nickname the Barefoot Bandit because he sometimes went without shoes at crime scenes. Investigators often found bare footprints in his wake.
Despite the increasing number of charges, state sentencing laws limit the amount of time judges can impose.
If convicted of the most serious state offense, theft of a firearm, Harris-Moore faces a standard sentencing range of up to 8 1/2 years, according to the court documents filed Tuesday.
Harris-Moore could earn a longer sentence if convicted of the federal crimes, including theft of a plane and weapons violations, which carry 10-year sentences.
Judges also have the ability to impose longer sentences in extraordinary cases, Strait said.
Harris-Moore is being held at the Federal Detention Center in SeaTac.
Browne has said he expects his client to face up to a dozen years behind bars.
Jackson Holtz: 425-339-3447;
Story tags » Camano IslandCrimeProsecutionBurglaryIsland County

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