Colton Harris-Moore, the teenage "Barefoot Bandit" who was the subject of a two-year manhunt, pleaded not guilty Thursday morning to five federal charges in U.S. District Court in Seattle. A judge set Harris-Moore's trial for Jan. 18.
Colton Harris-Moore, the teenage “Barefoot Bandit” who was the subject of a two-year manhunt, pleaded not guilty Thursday morning to five federal charges in U.S. District Court in Seattle.
Magistrate Judge Mary Alice Theiler scheduled Harris-Moore’s trial for Jan. 18 before U.S. District Judge Richard A. Jones.
Afterward, Harris-Moore’s attorney, John Henry Browne, said he hopes a plea deal can be struck that would limit the 19-year-old’s time behind bars. He suggested that Harris-Moore’s family might be interested in selling his story and using the proceeds to pay restitution to the dozens of victims.
Harris-Moore is a suspect in dozens of burglaries and the thefts of autos, boats and five airplanes in several Washington counties, as well as in Oregon, Idaho, Wyoming, South Dakota, Nebraska, Iowa, Illinois and Indiana.
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He was indicted last week on five criminal counts, four of which are punishable by up to 10 years in prison and fines of up to $250,000.
The gangly Harris-Moore, dressed in an orange Federal Detention Center jumpsuit and flanked by Browne, mostly stared at the table in front of him while Assistant U.S. Attorney Darwin Roberts read the charges:
• Interstate transportation of a stolen aircraft, stemming from the Sept. 29, 2009, theft of a Cessna from Bonners Ferry, Idaho. The plane was abandoned near Granite Falls.
• Interstate and foreign transportation of a stolen firearm, stemming from the theft of a .32-caliber pistol in Canada. Harris-Moore is accused of taking the handgun into Idaho, then on the plane he flew to Granite Falls.
• Fugitive in possession of a firearm, after Harris-Moore allegedly carried a Jennings .22-caliber pistol between Oct. 1, 2009, and May 6.
• Piloting an aircraft without a valid airman’s certificate, stemming from his alleged theft of an airplane from Anacortes, which was flown to Eastsound, Orcas Island, on Feb. 10. The charge is punishable by up to three years in prison.
• Interstate transportation of a stolen vessel, involving the theft of a 34-foot boat from Ilwaco, which was sailed to Oregon on May 31.
Harris-Moore spoke only twice during the hearing: once in response when asked to confirm his identity, and again to say “yes” when asked if he understood the charges against him. There was no discussion about releasing him from detention.
Browne said after the arraignment he is hoping a possible plea agreement would cover the federal as well as state charges the teen is facing. A number of jurisdictions have already agreed to withhold charging Harris-Moore, providing he receives an adequate federal sentence and pays restitution, Browne said.
Others — in particular Island and San Juan counties — have balked at a consolidated resolution to the case, he said.
Browne said that if Island and San Juan counties insisted on going to trial, “they will go bankrupt” because of the trial costs.
“In Island County, they have budgeted $1,500 for the year for jury fees — for the year,” Browne said. “I’ll bankrupt them, that’s fine with me.”
Reached by phone, Island County Prosecutor Greg Banks said, “He will bankrupt us? This guy is amazing. I think that’s a preposterous statement.”
Banks said the county prosecutes 300 to 350 felony cases a year, along with about 1,800 misdemeanor cases. He said it could handle the Harris-Moore case.
Browne said Harris-Moore would not take any of the money if his story was sold in a book or movie deal.
A plea deal like that, Browne said, could optimistically mean that Moore might serve as little as four years in prison. “That would be a best-case scenario,” Browne said.
The U.S. Attorney’s Office declined to comment on whether such a plea agreement was in the works.
Harris-Moore allegedly stole an airplane in Indiana and crash-landed it in the Bahamas on July 4. Bahamian police captured him a week later after a boat chase off Eleuthera, one of two sparsely populated tourist islands where he was accused in a string of burglaries.
Harris-Moore was dubbed the “Barefoot Bandit” because bare footprints were found at several scenes where he’s suspected of committing crimes.
Information from Seattle Times staff reporter Erik Lacitis contributed to this report, which includes information from Times archives.