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‘Barefoot Bandit’ pleads guilty to federal charges

This July 2009 self-portrait shows Colton Harris-Moore, the so-called “Barefoot Bandit.”  (Associated Press)
This July 2009 self-portrait shows Colton Harris-Moore, the so-called “Barefoot Bandit.” (Associated Press)

SEATTLE — Colton Harris-Moore, whose criminal exploits in two countries earned him an Internet following and the nickname the “Barefoot Bandit,” pleaded guilty today to seven federal charges that could send him to prison for more than six years.

Appearing in U.S. District Court in Seattle, the lanky, 6-foot-5 Camano Island, Wash., man entered guilty pleas to each of the federal charges. Under a plea agreement with federal prosecutors, Harris-Moore, 20, also agreed to forfeit any proceeds earned from the sale of his story.

The forfeiture issue had been a sticking point in plea negotiations between federal prosecutors and the defense, according to Harris-Moore’s attorney, John Henry Brown. Browne has said that Harris-Moore did not want to profit from his crime spree and intends any proceeds to go toward paying restitution, which Browne said is in the range of $1.5 million.

“Whether the government wants it or not, there will be a movie. There will be more books. And there will be money from them,” Browne said earlier this month.

According to the agreement, any proceeds from Harris-Moore’s story will go to his victims.

“We have ensured he will not profit from his crimes, and that his victims will be compensated to the greatest extent possible,” U.S. Attorney Jenny Durkan said during a news conference after Harris-Moore’s court appearance. “While we cannot stop him from telling his story, we can make sure he never sees a dime for his crimes.”

Harris-Moore pleaded guilty to: bank burglary; interstate transportation of an aircraft; interstate and foreign transportation of a stolen firearm; fugitive in possession of a firearm; piloting an aircraft without a valid airman’s certificate; interstate transportation of a stolen vessel and interstate transportation of a stolen aircraft.

Harris-Moore will be sentenced Oct. 28.

Under the plea agreement, prosecutors will recommend Harris-Moore be sentenced to between 5 years and three months and 6 1/2 years in prison on the federal charges.

In addition to the federal charges, Harris-Moore also faces more than two dozen state charges in Island and San Juan counties.

His crime spree began in Island County shortly after he escaped from a Renton halfway house in April 2008.

For more than two years, Harris-Moore evaded capture while committing a string of break-ins and thefts, according to law enforcement.

After reportedly teaching himself to fly by studying flight manuals and websites, Harris-Moore stole several aircraft, including a Cessna in Idaho in September 2009 that crashed near Granite Falls, Wash. He also stole a plane in Indiana and crash-landed it last July 4 in the Bahamas, where he was captured a week later.

He was dubbed the “Barefoot Bandit” because bare footprints were found at several crime scenes. In the San Juan Islands, chalk-outlined feet were found on the floor of a burglarized grocery.

The Internet made the “Barefoot Bandit” a worldwide cult hero — a Colton Harris-Moore Facebook page boasted tens of thousands of followers.

The federal charges Harris-Moore pleaded to stem from the following crimes:

— Bank burglary, stemming from the break-in Sept. 5, 2009, at Islanders Bank in Eastsound, Orcas Island.

— 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 took the handgun into Idaho, then on the plane he flew to Granite Falls.

—Fugitive in possession of a firearm, after Harris-Moore carried a Jennings .22-caliber pistol between Oct. 1, 2009, and May 6, 2010.

—Piloting an aircraft without a valid airman’s certificate, stemming from his theft of an airplane from Anacortes, which was flown to Eastsound on Feb. 10.

— Interstate transportation of a stolen vessel, involving the theft of a 34-foot boat from Ilwaco, which was sailed to Oregon on May 31.

— Interstate transportation of a stolen aircraft, stemming from the theft of an airplane last July 4 from Bloomington, Ind., which was flown to the Bahamas.

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