A Nebraska prosecutor has dismissed charges against the man known as the Barefoot Bandit, but his Skagit County case continues, now with a subpoena to prosecutors by Colton Harris-Moore’s attorney.
Harris-Moore, a 22-year-old from Camano Island, is serving a seven-year sentence for local and federal convictions stemming from his two-year streak of stealing vehicles, airplanes and boats and eluding law enforcement across the country.
Skagit County Prosecutor Rich Weyrich dropped out of the 2011 plea negotiations that ended with Harris-Moore’s convictions. Then Weyrich refiled burglary and theft charges in February for an Anacortes airplane theft in 2010 — something Harris-Moore’s attorney, John Henry Browne, called a vindictive attempt to lengthen Harris-Moore’s sentence.
The prosecutor handling the case, Senior Deputy Prosecutor Erik Pedersen, has since said he intended to drop the theft charge because it was resolved during a plea deal out of San Juan County, where Harris-Moore landed the airplane.
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Tensions have been high between Browne and the Skagit County Prosecutor’s Office since the local charges were refiled. Those tensions intensified when officials from the Madison County, Neb., Sheriff’s Office faxed a warrant to Skagit County on April 11 for an SUV theft that Harris-Moore reportedly committed there.
Neither the Madison County Sheriff’s Office nor the prosecutor knew that a deputy prosecutor had allowed the Nebraska charges to be resolved in the federal plea agreement.
After confirming the charges were included in the federal case, Madison County Prosecutor Joe Smith had the charges dismissed without prejudice last week, court documents show.
Nonetheless, Browne views the timing of the warrant service as “suspicious” — he suspects Skagit County prosecutors pressed Madison County to pursue the charges.
“We’ll get to the bottom of it,” Browne said this week.
He issued subpoenas last week to Weyrich and Pedersen requesting all internal and external communications since Harris-Moore’s Skagit County charges were filed, court papers show.
Pedersen filed a motion Friday to have the subpoena quashed, arguing that some correspondence includes documents exempt from disclosure under state law.
The motion also accuses Browne of applying pressure in hopes of striking a plea deal.
“I believe the subpoenas are meant to attempt to leverage an outcome of the case and not for any legitimate defense theory or motion,” Pedersen wrote.
He added that his office would provide emails related to the case that do not contain exempted statements, such as legal opinions or analysis.
A hearing to consider the motion to quash the subpoena was set for Thursday morning in Skagit County Superior Court.