Colton Harris-Moore, the now 28-year-old former fugitive who gained notoriety nearly a decade ago as the “Barefoot Bandit,” wants to end his federal probation early so he can inspire people, “serve as a model for people who have hard lives,” and embark on a career as a motivational speaker, court records show.
But a government attorney, in a response filed Friday, noted Harris-Moore only has four more months of probation left – and before filing his motion last month in U.S. District Court, Harris-Moore had never asked his probation officer for permission to travel outside Western Washington.
Harris-Moore’s attorney, Colleen Hartl, did not return phone calls Friday seeking comment.
Court records do not indicate when U.S. District Court Judge Richard Jones is expected to rule.
Harris-Moore, formerly of Camano Island, was sentenced to 6 1/2 years in prison and three years of supervised release in 2010 after a two-year crime spree wrecking cars, crash-landing three stolen airplanes and committing dozens of thefts and burglaries. At many of his crime scenes, Harris-Moore often left a sketched bare footprint as a signature, earning him his moniker, worldwide media attention and a social-media following as an cult hero.
His string of crimes – which included stealing an assault rifle from a police car – began when he escaped from a juvenile halfway house in 2008 and came to an end when his getaway boat got stuck on a sandbar in the Bahamas in July 2010. Two weeks before he surrendered to police in a hail of gunfire, he’d flown to the archipelago and crash-landed a plane stolen from an airport in Indiana.
The airplane’s owner was one of eight people who wrote letters to Judge Jones supporting Harris-Moore’s bid to end his probation early, court records show. Also included was a three-page letter Harris-Moore wrote to Jones, assuring the judge he was a changed man and had taken Jones’ comments, made when he sentenced Harris-Moore, to heart.
Harris-Moore was released from federal prison to a Seattle halfway house in September 2016, which is when his probation began.
His letter and his attorney’s motion indicate Harris-Moore expects to earn $10,000 to $20,000 per event, though it does not appear he has been offered any speaking engagements.
“I have learned from my past; I do not run from it, but instead try to embrace it for the better,” Harris-Moore wrote to Jones. “I hope to serve as a model for people who have hard lives and who feel hopeless. I saw it everyday when confined, and I have seen it in the world upon release. I feel I could be an inspirational model for people, not because of an arrogant sense of anything, but rather, because I have been to Hell and back, still standing, still inspired, still making progress, still seeing the future, still alive and full of energy.”
Harris-Moore, who was ordered to pay more than $1.2 million in restitution to his victims, wrote that the $1.15 million he was paid for the rights to film his life story went toward paying down his debt; he also recently made a $25,000 lump-sum payment from managing a renovation project, according to his letter. He wrote that he hopes to pay off the balance – now less than $100,000 – in the next year or two, and his earnings as a public speaker would help him reach that goal.
“I can show people that, even if they have a criminal record, even if they have debt, even if they thus far have not accomplished a single thing they once dreamt of — they still can,” Harris-Moore wrote.
In the government’s response, Assistant U.S. Attorney Michael Dion wrote that Harris-Moore had done well on supervision and has a promising future but he failed to identify any change in his circumstances that would justify early termination of his probation. Dion also noted getting permission from his probation officer to travel outside Western Washington would take two weeks at most, and presumably, any out-of-state speaking engagement would be planned more than two weeks in advance.
“In truth, Harris-Moore offers no evidence that the travel restriction would preclude him from speaking engagements or any other legitimate travel. Harris-Moore has never asked his Probation Officer for permission to travel for a speaking engagement,” Dion wrote. “It seems that Harris-Moore has simply grown tired of supervision. That is understandable, but hardly a reason for early termination.”