Colton Harris-Moore's relationship with his mother is a key issue in defense documents as his attorneys argue for a lighter prison sentence.
When Colton Harris-Moore faces the judge for sentencing on Friday, his mother won’t be in the small Island County Superior Courtroom in Coupeville.
“I have arthritis so bad, I can barely walk,” Pam Kohler says.
But Harris-Moore’s attorney, John Henry Browne, wasn’t saving a seat for her anyway.
The attorney representing the 20-year-old who got worldwide notoriety as the Barefoot Bandit says he won’t even let his mother visit him at Federal Detention Center — SeaTac where he’s being held:
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“When you read the reports, you’ll understand why. It’s too painful.”
It’s only by phone that the Barefoot Bandit communicates with his mother, says Browne.
A 54-page psychiatrist’s report, and 40-page “mitigation package” prepared for the defense in hopes of a lenient sentence on Friday by Judge Vickie Churchill, help explain why Harris-Moore has yet to see his mother since he was caught in the Bahamas in July 2010.
The mitigation report tells of the experiences of Bev and Geoff Davis, who live about three miles from the Camano Island single-wide trailer in the woods where Harris-Moore grew up:
“Bev recalled a time when Colt was about 12-13 years old: He called her on the phone, laughing, and said ‘You wanna hear something?’ He then apparently held up the phone as Bev clearly heard Pam screaming [profanities] followed by shotgun blasts.”
The report tells of Harris-Moore growing up in a home where the damage caused by alcohol was ever present.
Ed Coaker, Kohler’s brother, is quoted about his sister: “When Pam drinks one beer she gets mean and when she drinks two beers she wants to fight. But, Pam drinks twenty beers.”
Kohler says about the reports: “John Henry Browne is trying to make me the fall guy. I don’t like it, but if that’s gonna help Colt, fine.”
She also vows: “I’m going to put John Henry Browne out of business. His office will be up for lease. I’m serious. I’m going on the Internet and slam him.”
To the victims of his crime sprees, the sympathy level for Harris-Moore isn’t very high.
Kyle Ater owns the Orcas Homegrown Market and Gourmet Delicatessen, and says that in two break-ins, Harris-Moore caused him $12,000 in damages from stolen cash and trashed computers.
He is planning to show up in court on Friday and make a statement before sentencing.
“It wasn’t a victimless crime,” says Ater. “Oh, to say that he grew up in an abusive society and we should let him off because of that? I’m going to tell the judge how he affected hundreds of people and millions of dollars’ worth of property.”
Harris-Moore pleaded guilty in June to seven federal felony charges in a plea agreement that recommend he serve five to six years in prison to resolve the federal aspects of his crimes. The deal also turns over all proceeds to victims from a reported $1.3 million movie deal about the Barefoot Bandit’s story.
In a two-year crime spree, Harris-Moore stole two airplanes and a boat, and had a cross-country string of break-ins and thefts.
The Coupeville hearing on Friday consolidates more than 30 felony charges in Island, San Juan and Snohomish counties. One of the burglary charges could bring a 10-year prison term.
The reports try to build sympathy for Harris-Moore, as Browne seeks a six-year sentence at Friday’s hearing, to run concurrently with the federal sentence.
The report by Dr. Richard Adler, whose specialty is forensic and clinical psychiatry, says:
“What was characterized by the media as the swashbuckling adventures of a rakish teenager were in fact the actions of a depressed, possibly suicidal young man with waxing and waning Posttraumatic Stress Disorder … “
The psychiatrist writes that Harris-Moore was “exposed to alcohol prenatally” and states that “despite speculation in the mass media that Colton might have superior IQ, this is not borne out by standardized testing.” It states that “it is likely that Colton, in addition to being abused himself, witnessed domestic violence against his mother.”
Bev Davis recounted the toxic home life of Harris-Moore:
“Bev said that one minute Pam would hug and kiss Colt and call him her ‘little boo-boo bear’ and then, literally within minutes, explode at him, saying things such as ‘you little bastard — I wish you were dead.’ “
There was a point of several months, says the report, when the mother “lived [and slept]” with Gordon Moore (presumed biological father of Harris-Moore, and likely living in Nevada) and Bill Kohler (whom the report says she met through a prison pen-pal program, and who died in 2002).
The report also has Harris-Moore recalling a childhood of literal hunger. He says his mother received $1,100 a month in SSI benefits, and food was bought after the mother stocked up on beer and cigarettes.
“Colt vividly recalls there being literally no food in the house for most of the month, every month. He began breaking into neighbors’ home during late elementary school, raiding their refrigerators,” says the report.
It was the animals around his home that gave solace to the youth.
“Pam kept chickens and Colt named each one and knew their personalities,” says the report.
Harris-Moore once left $100 and a note outside a veterinary clinic during his crime spree.
Says the report: “Colt loved animals, stating, ‘All my childhood memories of our animals are good ones. We had dogs, goats, pigs, cats and even the occasional baby bird that fall out of its nest in the spring.’ “
Erik Lacitis: 206-464-2237 or firstname.lastname@example.org