Colton Harris-Moore will have to serve out the remaining months of his federal probation after a federal court judge found the convicted burglar and airplane thief tried to go around his probation officer in asking the court to allow him to travel freely to visit friends in Europe and Asia and accept out-of-state jobs as a motivational speaker.
U.S. District Court Judge Richard Jones ruled Friday that Harris-Moore didn’t follow the usual procedure to ask permission to travel outside Western Washington, but instead filed a court motion to end his probation early.
In April, Harris-Moore — who gained worldwide notoriety as the “Barefoot Bandit” for a two-year crime spree that ended in the Bahamas nearly a decade ago — had asked Jones to terminate his three-year term on federal probation, which is set to expire in September.
His attorney, Colleen Hartl, argued in court documents that it’s a waste of resources to continue Harris-Moore’s probation and that his probation officer told him he was being treated differently because of his fame. She wrote that Harris-Moore asked to move to Arizona last year, it took months for his probation officer to deny that request, and a prospective business partner balked at being forced to disclose financial information to the government.
But Assistant U.S. Attorney Michael Dion wrote in his response that the statements Harris-Moore attributed to his probation officer weren’t true. Dion noted the request to move to Arizona was made in 2016, and was a request to transfer his supervision, a more complicated request than asking to travel outside Western Washington. The move was denied a month later because Harris-Moore doesn’t have any ties to that state, had never visited and doesn’t have any relatives there, Dion wrote. He reiterated that Harris-Moore had never asked permission to travel while on probation for vacations or speaking engagements.
Harris-Moore, 28, formerly of Camano Island, was sentenced to 6 ½ 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 a 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.
Hartl argued Harris-Moore is trying to move beyond his Barefoot Bandit persona:
“The ‘Barefoot Bandit’ has not been his identity or reality for over 10 years. The ‘Barefoot Bandit’ is gone,” Hartl wrote.
She later added: “If the purpose of probation is to reintegrate the offender back into society as a productive, law-abiding citizen, that’s been done. Probation has nothing left to offer him.”
Dion countered that Harris-Moore is not a victim of his celebrity, but a beneficiary: For instance, Harris-Moore was paid more than $1 million for the rights to his life story and applied that to the roughly $1.3 million he was ordered to pay his victims in restitution — a sum most other felons would have hanging over their heads for life.
“Assuming that people really would pay Mr. Harris-Moore a $20,000 speaking fee, that is because of his persona. Other people on supervision have their own compelling stories, full of struggles, hardships, mistakes, successes, and hopes. But nobody will pay them to speak, because they are not The Barefoot Bandit,” Dion wrote. ” … Mr. Harris-Moore committed dozens of dangerous and destructive crimes. These also happened to be unusual, interesting crimes that caught the attention of the press and turned Mr. Harris-Moore into an outlaw hero.
“He may regret what he did, but he should not deny that he continues to benefit from that persona,” Dion wrote.
In his ruling, Jones found that Harris-Moore’s probation officer was willing to consider and possibly approve Harris-Moore’s travel requests. But the usual process “was not utilized by the Defendant,” who instead went to court to seek unsupervised probation or an early end to his probation.
“This request is untenable and would usurp one of the primary duties of a probation officer, which is to supervise convicted felons,” Jones wrote.
The judge determined Harris-Moore must satisfy his complete sentence “for the myriad of egregious crimes” he committed.
“Upon completion of his entire sentence and continued effort to deliver on his promise to make everyone whole, Mr. Harris-Moore can shed the ‘Barefoot Bandit’ moniker and instead be known as Colton Harris-Moore, the role model for having turned his life of challenges into a success story to inspire others.”