Barefoot Bandit signs movie deal

  • By Jackson Holtz Herald Writer
  • Wednesday, August 10, 2011 8:10pm
  • Local News

SEATTLE — The Barefoot Bandit has signed a movie deal worth as much as $1.3 million with 20th Century Fox.

While Colton Harris-Moore, 20, will not earn a dime, the money will be used to help pay the minimum $1.4 million he owes in restitution to the victims of his two-year long crime spree.

“I did things that were not only a violation of law, but also of trust,” Harris-Moore said in a written statement released by his attorneys. “I can’t undo what I did. I can only try to make things better.”

He said the statement was meant for the people of Camano Island and the San Juan Islands, “where I was born and raised.”

The statement explains that he would only agree to sign a deal if his victims could be repaid.

“I am humbled to know I can now help the people I hurt, at least for the financial damage I caused them,” Harris-Moore wrote. “I have absolutely zero interest in profiting from any of this and I won’t make a dime off it. It all goes to restitution. That’s what I insisted on from the beginning and the contract I signed guarantees it.”

Lance Rosen, the Seattle entertainment attorney who negotiated on Harris-Moore’s behalf, called the deal extraordinary.

“It’s very unusual for this kind of money to paid for anyone’s life story rights,” Rosen said Wednesday.

The deal covers motion picture and ancillary rights. Harris-Moore’s statements outside the courtroom will be limited to people associated with Fox.

Dustin Lance Black, an Academy Award-winning writer, reportedly is writing the script, said his defense attorney, John Herny Browne. The Hollywood trade publication Variety reported last year that David Gordon Green will direct the film.

Various actors including Zac Efron have been rumored to be cast as the Barefoot Bandit.

Although Black already had drafted a screenplay, it will be rewritten after Harris-Moore shares details of his criminal escapades, the attorney said.

“Nobody knows the nitty-gritty of Colton’s story,” Browne said.

Harris-Moore gained international attention during a multi-state crime spree. He stole five planes, more than a dozen cars, several boats and broke into homes and businesses before he was arrested July 11, 2010 in a shower of gunfire on a stolen boat in the Bahamas.

Ever since he broke out of a Renton halfway house in April 2008, Harris-Moore’s story has been a Hollywood drama in the making.

He was well known on Camano Island, his childhood home, for committing a string of burglaries that began when he was 10. By age 15, his face appeared on wanted posters distributed by Island County Sheriff’s deputies.

Harris-Moore was accused of slipping into empty vacation homes, stealing frozen pizzas and running into the woods instead of facing the prospect of jail.

He was arrested in February 2007 and sentenced to three years in juvenile detention. That’s when he broke out and started a crime spree that would end when police opened fire on him in the Bahamas more than two years later. Somewhere along the line, he apparently taught himself how to fly airplanes.

Harris-Moore broke into homes in the San Juan Islands where he stole his first airplane in November 2008. By October 2009, San Juan Island County sheriff’s officials pinned two plane thefts on the elusive burglar.

Harris-Moore fled to Canada, stole more cars and crossed back into the United States where he broke into an Idaho airport and stole another airplane.

That plane crashed near Granite Falls and set off a manhunt that included SWAT teams, the FBI and helicopters.

He’d go on to commit crimes in nine states and three countries before finally being arrested on a sandbar thousands of miles from his home.

During his run from the law he developed a large following on the Internet, with fan clubs, folk songs and T-shirts urging him to keep running.

“I am grateful beyond words that nobody was physically hurt by my dangerous and careless actions. I know too that I am lucky to be alive,” Harris-Moore said in his statement.

In June, Harris-Moore pleaded guilty to seven federal charges including plane and boat theft, a bank burglary and weapons violations.

As part of the federal plea agreement, Harris-Moore admitted to a litany of crimes. He also agreed to forfeit any proceeds from movie or books deals to the federal government to pay restitution.

The movie contract was agreed to by federal prosecutors, Browne said. The $1.3 million will be paid only if Fox exercises all the options.

Harris-Moore’s legal woes aren’t over. He still must face more than 30 state charges, including an anticipated charge of first-degree burglary in Snohomish County.

The state charges are expected to be consolidated in Island County Superior Court in Coupeville. Island County Prosecuting Attorney Greg Banks has said that a date is still being negotiated, but likely will be set in September.

Harris-Moore faces up to a decade behind bars. He’s scheduled to be sentenced in federal court at the end of October.

He remains locked up at the Federal Detention Center in Sea-Tac. That’s where he wrote the statement issued Wednesday.

“Getting money to my victims is the least I can do, and because of my situation it is probably the best I can do,” he wrote. “In due time I hope to earn the forgiveness of my neighbors and community, and everyone else I’ve hurt. I will continue to do everything in my power to make things better. My commitment to that endeavor is what keeps me going.”

Jackson Holtz: 425-339-3447; jholtz@heraldnet.com.

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