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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

Sirens & Gavels

Plea deal expected for Barefoot Bandit

SEATTLE (AP) — Washington's "Barefoot Bandit," who is accused of evading authorities for two years as he pilfered cars, boats and airplanes in a daring cross-country crime spree, could wind up reaching a blanket plea agreement that would avoid trials in more than a dozen jurisdictions, his lawyers said Friday. 

Colton Harris-Moore, 20, crash-landed a stolen airplane in the Bahamas last year and was arrested at gunpoint before being returned to the U.S.

Though he has pleaded not guilty, his attorney, John Henry Browne, has freely discussed Harris-Moore's intent to accept responsibility if a deal resolving state and federal charges in about 17 jurisdictions can be reached. 

Browne (right) declined to discuss Friday how much prison time he expects his client to receive under any deal, but he previously said Harris-Moore is looking at anywhere from four to 12 years if convicted.

A deal could also involve Harris-Moore donating any movie- or book-deal profits to repaying victims, Browne said.

"Everyone is trying very hard to resolve every case ... in this case," said Browne, pictured right.

The U.S. attorney's office says Harris-Moore is the primary suspect in scores of crimes since he escaped from a group home near Seattle in April 2008. They include stealing five airplanes, three of which were wrecked in crash landings; dozens of break-ins at homes and businesses; and the theft of cash, food, electronics, firearms, cars and boats across nine states, British Columbia and the Bahamas.

The federal charges stem from late 2009 and last year, when Harris-Moore is accused of flying a stolen plane from Anacortes, in northwestern Washington, to the San Juan Islands; stealing a pistol in eastern British Columbia; stealing a plane from a Bonners Ferry hangar ) where authorities found bare footprints on the floor and wall, and flying it to Granite Falls, Wash., where it crashed after running out of fuel; and stealing a 32-foot boat in southwestern Washington and taking it to Oregon.

From Oregon, authorities said, the self-taught pilot hopscotched his way across the U.S., frequently stealing cars from the parking lots of small airports, until he made it to Indiana, where he stole another plane and made for the Bahamas.

His escapades earned him cult status as an authority-mocking folk hero.

Harris-Moore appeared before U.S. District Judge Richard A. Jones for a status conference Friday. Both his lawyers and Assistant U.S. Attorney Darwin Roberts told the judge they've made progress toward a plea deal, which could be reached by the end of May.

"There are still a lot of moving parts," Roberts said. "We think it can all work out."

After the hearing, Browne said the plea deal would likely involve Harris-Moore pleading guilty to federal crimes in federal court, and all Washington state crimes in a single state superior court — most likely in Island County, which encompasses Camano Island, where he grew up and was known to police from boyhood.

He also faces charges in San Juan County and Skagit Counties, and prosecutors and police in other counties, including Snohomish, Mason and Kitsap, are still investigating cases that may be linked to him.

Browne said he plans to travel to the Midwest soon to meet with prosecutors there.

Public safety news from the Inland Northwest and beyond.