19-year-old ‘Barefoot Bandit’ makes 1st federal court appearance in Seattle after 2-year run

By George Tibbits, AP
Thursday, July 22, 2010

‘Barefoot Bandit’ makes Seattle court appearance

SEATTLE — Colton Harris-Moore, the 19-year-old accused of stealing cars and planes in a string of thefts from Washington state to the Caribbean, poses “an extreme risk of flight” and should remain jailed until his trial, federal prosecutors said Thursday.

Prosecutors filed documents supporting the request in advance of a procedural hearing for Harris-Moore in Seattle.

Harris-Moore faces one federal charge of interstate transportation of a stolen property in the theft last year of a plane from Idaho’s panhandle that crashed north of Seattle. The U.S. attorney’s office said he also is the primary suspect in at least 80 crimes committed since he escaped from a group home near Seattle in April 2008.

The crimes include the theft of five airplanes, three of which were wrecked in crash landings, numerous car thefts, several boats and numerous break-ins of homes and businesses.

He faces a maximum 10-year sentence in prison if convicted on the federal charge.

After a two-year run from the law, Harris-Moore was caught July 10 in the Bahamas, a week after he allegedly crash-landed an airplane stolen from an Indiana airport. Bahamian authorities launched an extensive manhunt for the teenager and arrested him as he tried to flee in a boat.

He was deported this week to Miami after pleading guilty to illegally entering the island nation east of Florida. He was flown to Seattle on Wednesday aboard a U.S. Marshals plane.

Harris-Moore’s “unlicensed, covert and wreck-inducing flights pose an obvious threat to innocent passengers in other aircraft and persons on the ground,” the court document said. It said because Harris-Moore already has fled the country in a stolen plane, “there is every reason to believe that he would attempt to do so again, endangering more people in the process.”

The prosecutors also said there was strong evidence that Harris-Moore repeatedly stole and carried firearms while on the run and likely used or brandished firearms in some instances.

Police dubbed Harris-Moore the “Barefoot Bandit” because investigators found footprints identified as his at several crime scenes. In February, chalk-outlined feet were found on the floor of a grocery store during a burglary in Washington’s San Juan Islands.

In Washington state, he long frustrated police who accused him of breaking into cabins and businesses in the heavily wooded islands north of Puget Sound. Deputies once saw him jump from a stolen Mercedes, and later found his self-portrait on a stolen digital camera, posing in a black shirt with a Mercedes logo.

His escapades turned him into a folk hero, with more than 90,000 followers on a Facebook fan page.

In addition to Washington state and Idaho, Harris-Moore is being investigated for crimes in Oregon, Illinois, Indiana, Wyoming, South Dakota, Nebraska and Iowa.

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