‘Barefoot Bandit’ crashes to earth with jail term

A serial burglar nicknamed the “Barefoot Bandit” was sentenced in Seattle to six-and-a-half years in prison for charges stemming from a sensational, two-year crime spree as a sometimes-shoeless teenage runaway.

The federal judge also ordered that Colton Harris-Moore, 20, serve his sentence simultaneously with a state term of more than seven years in a move his lawyers say could see him freed before his 26th birthday.

The proceedings marked the end of an extraordinary two-year saga for Harris-Moore, a high school dropout and self-taught pilot who escaped from a juvenile detention facility and stayed one step ahead of the law as he broke into homes and stole cars, boats and planes across nine states and British Columbia.

Harris-Moore’s life has often been compared to Leonardo DiCaprio’s character in the film ‘Catch Me If You Can’ where the central character successfully conned millions of dollars while pretending to be a Pan Am pilot, doctor, and legal prosecutor.

And Harris-Moore has already signed a deal with 20th Century Fox to tell his life story. His exploits, which prosecutors said included at least 67 crimes, came to an end when he was captured in the Bahamas in July 2010 after crash-landing a stolen aircraft he had flown to the islands from Indiana.

He hop-scotched his way across the US, authorities said.

He flew a plane stolen in northwestern Washington to the San Juan Islands, stole a pistol in British Columbia and took a plane from Idaho to Washington state, stole a boat in southwestern Washington to go to Oregon, and took a plane in Indiana and flew to the Bahamas.

The 20-year-old earned his nickname because he committed several of the crimes without wearing shoes, and he attracted fans across the nation for his ability to evade police.

The 78-month federal prison term he was given was the maximum he faced for seven federal charges he pleaded guilty to in June, including interstate transportation of two stolen airplanes and a yacht, a bank burglary, possessing a firearm as a fugitive and piloting an aircraft without a valid licence.

Last month in state court in Coupeville, Washington, Harris-Moore, who grew up in the Puget Sound community of Camano Island, was sentenced to 87 months for 33 crimes ranging from residential burglary to attempting to elude police.

His lawyers said that with credit Harris-Moore is expected to receive for time served and good behaviour, their client, who turns 21 in March, would likely spend four-and-half years in prison and could be released before his 26th birthday.

In a 5-minute statement read before District Judge Richard Jones pronounced the sentence, Harris-Moore apologised for his crimes: “The lessons learned on the back of my victims are no way an excuse for my crimes”.

Asked by the judge what message he would send to young people, Harris-Moore said, “What I did could be called daring, but I’m lucky to be alive.”

As part of his plea deal, Harris-Moore agreed to forfeit any profits from the rights to his life story. He has signed a movie deal with 20th Century Fox, setting aside about $1.3 million in proceeds as restitution to his victims.

During his December 16 state sentencing, Island County Superior Court Judge Vickie Churchill called Harris-Moore’s case a tragedy but also a “triumph in the human spirit” because of his severely-troubled childhood.

Defence documents filed argued that Harris-Moore was “at a low risk for re-offending and has the will and interest to make a life for himself as a member of the community.”

A small commuter airline has communicated with Harris-Moore “about his future after incarceration,” the documents said.

More in this section

IE_logo_newsletters

Select your favourite newsletters and get the best of Irish Examiner delivered to your inbox