‘Barefoot Bandit’ remains jailed until trial; attorney says he’s just an immature kid

By George Tibbits, AP
Friday, July 23, 2010

Attorney: ‘Barefoot Bandit’ just an immature kid

SEATTLE — His attorney says the “Barefoot Bandit,” accused of dozens of thefts from Washington state to the Caribbean, is a likable but immature kid.

The U.S. attorney in Seattle calls Colton Harris-Moore, 19, a menace who, if set free, would pick up his two-year crime spree where he left off.

For his part, Harris-Moore says he’s no hero and nobody’s role model.

What’s indisputable is he’s a federal prisoner after opting not to seek bail during an eight-minute court appearance Thursday.

Appearing before U.S. Magistrate Judge Brian Tsuchida, 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.

Dressed in tan, jail-issued shirt and pants, Harris-Moore spoke quietly with attorney John Henry Browne and didn’t smile during the hearing. He softly answered “yes” several times when Tsuchida asked him if he understood the charge against him and that he would remain in custody.

He is charged with one count of interstate transportation of stolen property in the theft last year of a plane from Idaho’s panhandle that crashed north of Seattle. It carries a maximum 10-year prison sentence if convicted.

The FBI has said DNA matching his was found on the plane. Agents say bare footprints also were found nearby along with Harris-Moore’s fingerprint on a stolen mirror.

Police dubbed him the “Barefoot Bandit” because bare footprints were found at several scenes where he’s suspected of committing crimes. In February, chalk-outlined feet were found on the floor of a burglarized grocery store in Washington’s San Juan Islands.

The U.S. attorney’s office says Harris-Moore is the primary suspect in at least 80 crimes committed 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.

His escapades have some lauding him as an authority-mocking folk hero. He has more than 90,000 followers on a Facebook fan page.

But Browne says Harris-Moore told him he doesn’t want to be considered a hero and was often scared while on the lam. “He wants kids and everybody to understand that what he did was not fun,” Browne said.

His client comes across as a polite and intelligent young man, but “not terribly mature,” Browne said.

“My first impression is, he’s really a kid.”

U.S. Attorney Jenny Durkan called Harris-Moore “a significant danger to the community” and an “extreme” flight risk.

“Nothing should be glorified,” said Durkan, who added that the investigation was ongoing and more charges against Harris-Moore and 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’s possible all potential charges against his client might be pulled together into one trial, he and Durkan said that is unlikely, given the large number of jurisdictions involved.

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

He was caught July 10 in the Bahamas, a week after authorities said he crash-landed an airplane stolen from an Indiana airport. Bahamian authorities launched a manhunt and arrested him as he tried to flee in a boat.

Harris-Moore was deported to Miami after pleading guilty to illegally entering the island nation east of Florida and was flown to Seattle on Wednesday.

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 is strong evidence Harris-Moore repeatedly stole and carried guns while on the run and likely used or brandished them.

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.

will not be displayed