‘Barefoot Bandit’ Colton Harris-Moore back in court
Colton Harris-Moore -- Camano Island's own "Barefoot Bandit" and international celebrity fugitive --again pleaded not guilty to a string of burglaries on Thursday.
Appearing Thursday in U.S. District Court, Harris-Moore pleaded not guilty to charges contained in a second grand jury indictment filed last month.
The case, however, may be resolved soon.
John Henry Browne, Harris-Moore's attorney, said prosecutors and the defense are "very close" to a plea deal for the Barefoot Bandit. A preliminary draft of the plea deal could be completed later Thursday.
Browne wouldn't offer details of the plea deal but said it would resolve criminal accusations against Harris-Moore in state and federal courts.
Harris-Moore, 20, is facing a slew of charges stemming from his lengthy flight from justice. The alleged plane and boat thief was arrested in the Bahamas after he crashed a stolen aircraft there in July.
Having spent his 20th birthday behind bars at the Federal Detention Center at SeaTac in January, Harris-Moore was scheduled to go on trial in July for a string of thefts across the country following his escape from a Renton group home on April 22, 2008.
After his escape, Harris-Moore developed a reputation for committing crimes while barefoot and, on at least one occasion, naked. Investigators claim he also had a taste for planes, stealing as many as five during his two years on the run.
The Camano Island youth is suspected in more than 80 crimes, including several aircraft thefts and assaults on law officers, and would likely face juries in local jurisdictions after the federal case concludes.
In a grand jury indictment handed down May 25, federal prosecutors in Seattle for the first time accused Harris-Moore of a Sept. 5, 2009, break-in at an Orcas Island bank.
Federal prosecutors also claim, in essence, that Harris-Moore should be made to forfeit any rights to his story and be barred from profiting from any sales.
“The property forfeited includes … any and all intellectual property or other proprietary rights belonging to the defendant, based upon or pertaining to any narration, description, publication, dissemination or disclosure of information relating to” the crimes charged, prosecutors said in the indictment.
Prosecutors go on to assert that Harris-Moore should give up “any profits or proceeds received in connection with any publication or dissemination of information relating to illegal conduct.”
Harris-Moore doesn't want to profit from his story, Browne said. But he does want to use any proceeds to pay restitution.
"He does not want to make a dime off of it. He thinks it's wrong. He doesn't want his family to make a dime off of it," Browne said.
The recent indictment followed on new charges filed earlier this year against Harris-Moore by county prosecutors around the state. On May 17, Island County prosecutors charged Harris-Moore with 14 theft-related counts; San Juan County prosecutors recently charged him with 16 similar counts.
The new action by the federal grand jury follows a five-count indictment filed in November accusing Harris-Moore of crimes in British Columbia, Idaho, Oregon and Washington.
Federal prosecutors contend Harris-Moore took a stolen .32-caliber pistol from Idaho to Washington, and carried a .22-caliber pistol while on the run in Washington. Harris-Moore is accused of stealing a plane in Idaho, flying it without a license and stealing a boat to travel from Ilwaco, Wash., on the Long Beach peninsula, to Oregon.
Harris-Moore's flight from authorities garnered him thousands of fans and nationwide media attention, to the frustration of Jenny Durkan, U.S. attorney for Western Washington.
"There is nothing in his acts to be admired, and nothing should be glorified," Durkan said following Harris-Moore's arrest. "Real people were hurt by his actions."
Harris-Moore's attorneys contend he was "scared to death" while on the run, and characterized his actions as youthful mistakes.
The young man had been in solitary confinement at the Federal Detention Center, reading National Geographic and making technical drawings of airplanes, his attorneys said. His attorneys have described him as a shy young man, unhappy with the notoriety that saw him garner significant national attention – and legions of fans – before he was arrested in the Bahamas after crashing a stolen plane near the islands.
Harris-Moore’s accommodations appeared to have changed someone; he injured his leg recently during a detention center volleyball game.
Court documents show that federal and state prosecutors and Harris-Moore’s defense team are working toward a global plea agreement that would see Harris-Moore resolve all the allegations against him.
Requesting a minor scheduling change that would still see Harris-Moore face a jury in July, prosecutors and defense attorneys previously told U.S. District Court Judge Richard Jones they needed several more weeks to pursue the negotiations.
“The parties are currently involved in settlement negotiations that may potentially resolve this case, the pending cases in Snohomish, Skagit, Island, and San Juan counties, and matters in other jurisdictions,” the attorneys told the court. “The negotiations have been meaningful and productive.”
Such an agreement would likely see Harris-Moore plead guilty to federal charges after receiving assurances from state and local prosecutors that he would either not be charged or that his plea in federal court would resolve those cases.