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June 21, 2011 7:30 am

‘Barefoot bandit’ pleads guilty to crime spree

Written by CJ Baker

Park County charges not among them

A young Washington state man who eluded law enforcement for two years while committing a spree of crimes across North America — including a yet-to-be-resolved alleged theft in Cody — pleaded guilty to seven felonies in Seattle’s federal District Court on Friday.

The 20-year-old Colton Harris-Moore, who’s known as the “Barefoot Bandit” for committing several of his crimes while wearing no shoes, now faces up to six and a half years in federal prison and a $1.4 million bill, pending an Oct. 26 sentencing.

“The many years of Mr. Harris-Moore avoiding responsibility for his criminal conduct have come to an end,” said Jenny A. Durkan, Washington’s U.S. Attorney in a statement released Friday.

While the plea agreement brings an end to the federal charges against Harris-Moore, he still faces dozens of charges in four Washington counties. A consolidated hearing and a plea deal is expected in about a month, local media reported, with Harris-Moore serving no more than 10 years in prison.

Harris-Moore’s attorney, John Henry Browne, said his client was admitting to his crimes to avoid what could have become “a traveling road show,” with years of trials across the country, the Los Angeles Times reported. Harris-Moore has been sought as a suspect in connection with crimes in British Columbia, Idaho, South Dakota and Nebraska, among other places. “Multiple car thefts in Idaho and Wyoming” are mentioned in the statement of facts laid out in the plea agreement, prosecutors said.

However, the deals in Washington will not resolve a Cody case where police have named Harris-Moore as a suspect. Cody police have said DNA evidence has tied the man to a June 13, 2010 break-in and vehicle theft at a roofing company west of Yellowstone Regional Airport. The vehicle was found abandoned in Buffalo a day later, and Cody police say blood found on the vehicle’s brake pedal matched that of an apparently barefoot Harris-Moore.

“Our charges are still (pending), and he’ll have to face the charges here in the state of Wyoming,” said Park County attorney Bryan Skoric.

The county was invited to be a party to the plea agreement finalized on Friday, but Skoric said the deal did not appear to be in the county’s best interests and he declined to participate.

“It (the prison sentence) seems something that certainly I wasn’t satisfied with,” said Skoric. “People are getting that for one burglary.”

Law enforcement officials say Harris-Moore has been connected to roughly 100 burglaries, among a staggering stack of allegations.

On Friday, Harris-Moore pleaded guilty to charges relating to two of the planes he stole and flew without a license, the theft of a 34-foot boat and two pistols and an attempted break-in at a bank ATM and night deposit box.

Still pending state-level charges in Island County, Wash., allege Harris-Moore broke into a sheriff’s vehicle in June 2009 and stole a rifle, laptop, phone, breath analyzer, ticket book, cell phone, camera and radar tuning forks. Around that same time, he allegedly stole a resident’s credit card (among other items), used it to buy a GPS watch on Amazon.com (among other items) and then shipped it to an address near his mother’s residence where he’d set up a mailbox.

And those are just two of 14 counts in Island County alone.

In July 2010, some two years after escaping from a halfway house, Harris-Moore was arrested in the Bahamas after a boat chase. He had crashed-landed on the island a few days earlier in a plane he’d stolen from Indiana, authorities said.

His brazen crimes and evasion of authorities for close to two years drew widespread media coverage and some fans; one Facebook fan page for the Barefoot Bandit has nearly 39,000 members.

The movie rights to an as-yet-to-be-written book about Harris-Moore have already been acquired by 20th Century Fox, but as a part of the federal plea deal, all his proceeds from a future flick, book or other recounting of his crimes will go to repay the more than $1.4 million he now owes the victims.

“While we cannot stop him from telling his story, we can make sure he never sees a dime for his crimes,” said Durkan, the U.S. Attorney.

A Cody Police Department report on last year’s theft has been finalized, but charges have yet to be formally filed against Harris-Moore in Park County. Skoric predicted that will happen in five to six weeks.

In Wyoming, burglary carries a maximum sentence of 10 years in prison, as does theft of a vehicle worth more than $1,000.

(Editor's note: this version corrects the location of the Cody business that was reportedly burglarized.)

2 comments

  • Comment Link June 21, 2011 10:56 am posted by collette youngman

    i know he is guilty for the crimes he did. but when i found out that as a (boy)he broke into homes to get something to eat and take a shower and wash his close,and sleep on a bed.i had compasion for him,and i think that in jail will be the first time he gets good meals ,and showers and a clean bed to sleep in.i think he will change, and make some thing out his life...

  • Comment Link June 21, 2011 12:33 pm posted by Free Range

    Seriously. He stole a CAR in Cody. He will be punished more than enough already for his crimes, spending most of his 20s behind bars. Think about it for a second, and please reconsider your position. You are doing a very, very foolish thing. Are you really that vengeful? Or that publicity hungry?

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