'Barefoot Bandit' sentenced to 6 1/2 years
Colton Harris-Moore, left, also known as the "Barefoot Bandit," sits next to his attorney, John Henry Browne, right, in Island County Superior Court in Coupeville, Wash., Friday, Dec. 16, 2011. (AP / Ted S. Warren)
The Canadian Press
Published Friday, January 27, 2012 2:57PM EST
SEATTLE - A federal judge on Friday sentenced "Barefoot Bandit" Colton Harris-Moore to 6 1/2 years in prison for his infamous two-year, international crime spree of break-ins, and boat and plane thefts that ended in 2010.
Harris-Moore hopscotched his way across the United States, authorities said. He flew a plane stolen in northwestern Washington to the San Juan Islands, stole a pistol in British Columbia and took a plane from Idaho to Washington state, stole a boat in southwestern Washington to go to Oregon, and took a plane in Indiana and flew to the Bahamas, where was arrested.
He earned his nickname because he committed several of the crimes without wearing shoes.
Harris-Moore apologized to his victims shortly before U.S. Judge Richard Jones imposed the sentence, which will be served concurrently with state prison time.
"I now know a crime that took place overnight will take years to recover from," the 20-year-old said in court.
He particularly apologized for stealing planes, saying his arrogance led him to keep alive his dream of flying.
"What I did could be called daring, but it is no stretch of the imagination to say that am lucky to be alive ... absolutely lucky," he said. "I should have died years ago."
Before Friday's sentencing, defence attorneys said federal prosecutors released cherry-picked excerpts from emails in an effort to make Harris-Moore appear callous and self-aggrandizing.
He called the Island County sheriff "king swine," called prosecutors "fools," and referred to reporters as "vermin." He also described his feats -- stealing and flying planes with no formal training -- "amazing" and said they were unmatched by anyone except the Wright brothers.
But Harris-Moore's lawyers claim the full emails show that he is sorry for what he did and thankful for the treatment he received from a state judge who called his case a "triumph of the human spirit." The state judge sentenced him last month to seven years, at the low end of the sentencing range.
The attorneys acknowledged that in certain instances he bragged, but they said those writings were simply the product of an impulsive adolescent and don't reflect his true remorse.
Harris-Moore apologized for those emails in court Friday.
The judge asked Harris-Moore to speak to young people who may look up to him because of his exploits.
"I would say to younger people they should focus on their education, which is what I am doing right now," he said. "I want to start a company. I want to make a difference in this world, legally."
Federal prosecutors had asked for Jones to impose a 6 1/2 year sentence to be served while Harris-Moore serves his state time. His attorneys had asked for a federal sentence of just under six years.
The judge acknowledged that Harris-Moore had a difficult childhood, one with "complete lack of parental guidance" and alcohol abuse. But he said he was concerned that that his previous court appearances didn't have an impact on him.
Jones acknowledged that Harris-Moore committed his early crimes to survive after fleeing from home. But he said "most of the federal offences were committed for one reason: to fulfil your passion for flying at all costs and consequences."
The judge encouraged Harris-Moore to get treatment in prison.
"The most important day in your life is what you do when you are released. It will be up to you to create a new flight plan," Jones said.
Harris-Moore's defence lawyers said treatment was already under way.
There will be another hearing in a month to decide how much restitution Harris-Moore will be required to pay.