19-year-old ‘Barefoot Bandit’ makes 1st federal court appearance in Seattle, doesn’t seek bail

By George Tibbits, AP
Thursday, July 22, 2010

‘Barefoot Bandit’ doesn’t seek bail, stays jailed

SEATTLE — The teenager accused in a two-year string of thefts from Washington state to the Caribbean made a brief court appearance Thursday in the state where his escapades began, and opted not to seek bail.

Earlier in the day, federal prosecutors said Colton Harris-Moore, known as the “Barefoot Bandit,” posed “an extreme risk of flight” and should remain jailed until his trial.

In a court appearance that lasted just eight minutes, Harris-Moore did not contest his detention and waived his right to a preliminary hearing. His next court appearance will likely come after a grand jury indictment.

Harris-Moore wore a tan jail-issued shirt and pants, appeared somber, and spoke quietly with his attorney during the hearing. He answered “Yes” several times when the judge asked him if he understood the charge against him.

He 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. He faces a maximum 10-year sentence in prison if convicted.

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. They 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.

His escapades have turned him into a folk hero, with more than 90,000 followers on a Facebook fan page. Both his attorney, John Henry Browne, and U.S. Attorney Jenny Durkan on Thursday downplayed that status.

Browne said after the hearing that Harris-Moore “wants kids and everybody to understand that what he did was not fun.”

“Nothing should be glorified,” said Durkan, who largely declined to comment on the case, adding that the investigation was ongoing and that more charges against Harris-Moore as well as charges against other people might be forthcoming. “There’s nothing entertaining about these charges.”

Browne said he did not contest Harris-Moore’s detention because pending charges elsewhere would “start a traveling road show.”

Although Browne said it was possible that all the charges against his client might be pulled together into one trial, Durkan said that was unlikely given the large number of jurisdictions involved.

The courthouse was briefly locked down at the time of the hearing as the Seattle Fire Department responded to a report of white powder in the mail room, but the the substance was found to be nontoxic.

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 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.

Browne said Harris-Moore had not yet spoken to his mother, and that he had only met his client Thursday morning. He said his first impression of the teen was that “he’s really a kid.”

In their bid to hold him until trial, prosecutors wrote that Harris-Moore’s “unlicensed, covert and wreck-inducing flights pose an obvious threat to innocent passengers in other aircraft and persons on the ground.” Because Harris-Moore already has fled the country in a stolen plane, they argued “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.

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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