SEATTLE – Colton Harris-Moore, the Camano Island man known worldwide for stealing planes and running barefoot from crime scenes, must set a “new flight plan,” a judge told him Friday.
U.S. District Court Judge Richard A. Jones sentenced Harris-Moore to serve 6 ½ years in prison as punishment for a two-year, multistate crime spree that included five plane thefts.
The prison time may be served concurrently with a seven-year state sentence imposed last month, the judge said.
“The reality is that you committed some very serious crimes that demand punishment,” Jones said.
‘High propaganda’: Prosecutors’ recent briefs alleged Colton Harris-Moore has no remorse for his crimes.
State sentencing: Our story from Harris-Moore’s Dec. 16 hearing in Coupeville.
Fly Colton Fly: Excerpts from Herald reporter Jackson Holtz’s book
Luck runs out: Coverage of his July 11, 2011, capture.
Myth vs. reality: A look at the facts about Harris-Moore.
Click here for our complete Colton Harris-Moore page.
Friday’s hearing likely is the last chapter in Harris-Moore’s journey through the federal and state judicial systems that began with his arrest in July 2010.
Once free from prison, the so-called Barefoot Bandit will be under federal supervision for three years, the judge ruled. That’s the maximum allowed, Assistant U.S. Attorney Darwin Roberts said.
John Henry Browne, Harris-Moore’s defense attorney, predicted that his client may be free in about 4 ½ years, if he’s given credit for good behavior in prison.
Jones gave his support to allow Harris-Moore to be locked up under the authority of the Washington State Department of Correction. Ultimately, the federal Bureau of Prisons must approve such a move.
Defense lawyers are trying to have Harris-Moore housed at the Monroe Correctional Complex so he may receive specialized therapy.
A psychiatrist hired by defense lawyers determined that Harris-Moore suffers from post-traumatic stress disorder and fetal alcohol spectrum disorder. The latter condition comes from exposure to alcohol while still in the womb.
On Friday Harris-Moore delivered a six-minute prepared speech to the court.
He apologized for his crimes and for the statements he made in jailhouse emails that were released in court documents Tuesday. The emails, made public by prosecutors, were taken out of context, Browne said earlier. They included comments calling the government’s case “high propaganda,” his sentence “political” and the police and prosecutors “swine,” “fools” and “asses.” He also likened his impact on aviation to that of the Wright brothers.
“I wish for nothing else but to make things right,” Harris-Moore said Friday. He said he was embarrassed by the statements and he acknowledged that he’d hurt people.
Piloting a plane had become his life’s dream, he said.
“I held a dream close. This dream kept me alive,” he said.
Linking his illicit flights to his heroes, the Wright brothers, was “foolish arrogance,” he said.
The story of the Barefoot Bandit, a slippery teenager who eluded capture and flew planes despite no formal training, created a media sensation.
Harris-Moore grew up on the south end of Camano Island where he had an alcoholic mother and a heroin-addicted father.
His criminal history began at 12 when he began stealing from neighbors for his dinner. Soon he set his sights on electronics, cash and credit cards.
In 2007, he made headlines in the Pacific Northwest when the Island County Sheriff’s Office released his mug in an effort to end a six-month burglary spree. He was arrested and sentenced to three years in juvenile rehab.
A year later, he escaped a halfway house near Seattle and returned to prowl the islands of the Pacific Northwest, sometimes running barefoot from his crimes. When officials announced in 2009 that he was a suspect in two plane thefts, the world took notice.
Within days a Facebook fan page attracted thousands and urged Harris-Moore, now known as the Barefoot Bandit, to “Fly, Colton, Fly.”
His crime wave extended into nine states and crossed into three countries before he was arrested in July 2010 in the Bahamas.
Along the way, he sometimes left messages and he rarely resorted to violence, although he frequently was armed.
Books and movies are in the works, including a deal that should help Harris-Moore pay about $1.3 million in restitution to his victims, but would prevent him from profiting.
While Harris-Moore evaded arrest, many people, especially teenagers, looked up to him.
On Friday, the judge asked Harris-Moore to address that audience.
“I should have died years ago,” Harris-Moore said, describing his life on the run as “extremely dangerous and terrifying.”
Being the subject of media scrutiny has been the “worst experience in my life,” he said.
Young people should focus on education, his current plan, he said.
“I want to make a difference, legally,” Harris-Moore said.
Friday was the first time that Pam Kohler, Harris-Moore’s mother, attended one of her son’s court hearings since his 2010 arrest.
Often quick with comments to the media, on Friday she refused to talk with reporters and even scuffled with photographers outside the courthouse.
Kelly Kneifl travelled from Yankton, S.D., to share in court the frightening story of his encounter with Harris-Moore early one morning in June 2010.
During a cross-country trek, Harris-Moore had paused at Kneifl’s home, breaking in while the family vacationed out of state.
The family arrived home to discover Harris-Moore in the shower. That set up an confrontation between the naked fugitive and frightened homeowner, Kneifl said.
Harris-Moore threatened to kill Kneifl, even though he was armed only with a laser pointer.
The bandit got away, but Kneifl said the intrusion left a shroud of terror over his family.
“It was very scary for my children,” Kneifl said.
Receiving a direct apology from Harris-Moore on Friday helped the man to feel a sense of closure, he said during a post-hearing press conference.
Harris-Moore’s offering of remorse Friday was too late, said Steven Dean, an FBI agent who worked the case. There were plenty of opportunities to surrender during more than two years on the lam.
When asked how the FBI agent would remember the Barefoot Bandit, Dean replied, “Why remember him?”
“Send him off to prison like any other offender.”
Harris-Moore is expected to be transferred from the Federal Detention Center in Sea-Tac to the state Department of Corrections on March 22, the day he turns 21.
Jackson Holtz: 425-339-3447; firstname.lastname@example.org.