The case against the “Barefoot Bandit” was just complicated this week by an arrest warrant served on him out of Nebraska for theft and has sparked more outrage from his attorney, who is accusing local prosecutors of prompting the warrant service in a vindictive move against his client.
Colton Harris-Moore, a 22-year-old from Camano Island, Wash., already was convicted of the Nebraska theft in a 2011 federal plea agreement that resulted in his current seven-year prison sentence. Harris-Moore went on a two-year crime spree, stealing cars and planes and evading law enforcement throughout the United States before he was arrested in the Bahamas.
Harris-Moore is accused of stealing a plane from Anacortes, Wash., and landing it in the San Juan Islands during that spree. That resulted in first-degree theft and second-degree burglary charges from Skagit County.
Later, Skagit County Prosecutor Rich Weyrich opted out of plea negotiations with the other counties affected by Harris-Moore’s crimes, and the Skagit County theft charge was resolved in San Juan County.
Then in February, Skagit County prosecutors re-filed the original theft and burglary charges with the hope of getting Harris-Moore more prison time.
Now he is held in Skagit County Jail on the charges, having been transferred from prison in Aberdeen, Wash.
Defense attorney John Henry Browne said he believes the Madison County, Neb., charge amounts to double jeopardy, which he also claimed when Skagit County prosecutors filed the duplicate theft charge this year that could soon be dismissed.
Browne also has accused Weyrich of prosecutorial misconduct for public comments the prosecutor made about Harris-Moore’s supposed guilt.
In an email Browne sent Thursday to Skagit County Senior Deputy Prosecutor Erik Pedersen, who is handling the case, Browne wrote that he intends to subpoena Pedersen, Weyrich and Madison County officials in an attempt to get the Skagit County charges dropped.
“Your office involvement in this is vindictiveness beyond belief,” Browne wrote. “All Skagit charges must be dismissed NOW or this will get real messy.”
Pedersen denies the accusations of persuading Madison County to serve its warrant, saying that he was notified of the warrant after it was served in Skagit County Jail.
“Mr. Browne seems to believe we’re digging beyond what’s in front of us in our case,” he said.
Officials in Nebraska say they found an active arrest warrant and faxed it to Skagit County on Thursday, unaware that the charge was already resolved.
The federal plea agreement, signed in June 2011, describes the Madison County crime in its list of charges.
It reads that on June 19, 2012, Harris-Moore broke into the Karl Stefan Memorial Airport and stole a 2008 Cadillac Escalade.
Lynette Kasik, the warrant transportation clerk for the Madison County Sheriff’s Office, said the warrant has been active since Harris-Moore was arrested in the Bahamas in 2010 and nobody has quashed it.
When asked why the warrant wasn’t served until this week, she said, “He kind of got lost in the system.”
The agency only recently found out where Harris-Moore is located, so she faxed the warrant to the Skagit County Sheriff’s Office around midday Thursday.
The warrant has the effect of placing a fugitive hold on Harris-Moore and could result in his extradition to Nebraska.