'Barefoot Bandit' pleads guilty to interstate crime spree

'Barefoot Bandit' pleads guilty to interstate crime spree »Play Video
Colton Harris-Moore is escorted shackled and handcuffed by Bahamian authorities to the court building in Nassau, Tuesday July 13, 2010.
SEATTLE - Colton Harris-Moore, the "Barefoot Bandit" from Washington state whose two-year cross-country crime spree gained him international notoriety, pleaded guilty Friday to federal charges in U.S. District Court.

Harris-Moore, 20, entered the guilty plea to seven federal charges before Judge Richard Jones following months of negotiations between defense lawyers and the U.S. Attorney's Office in Seattle.

Under the plea deal, prosecutors and defense lawyers agreed to recommend a prison term of 5 1/4 years to 6 1/2 years, but the judge is not bound by that agreement and may hand down a longer sentence.

The terms of the plea agreement also prohibit Harris-Moore from profiting from his crimes. He must pay a minimum of $1.4 million in restitution to crime victims, using proceeds from a movie deal reported to be in the works. Any proceeds from books, speeches or other publicity also must be used to pay restitution.

"The many years of Mr. Harris-Moore avoiding responsibility for his criminal conduct have come to an end," said U.S. Attorney Jenny A. Durkan.

"We have ensured he will not profit from his crimes, and that his victims will be compensated to the greatest extent possible. While we cannot stop him from telling his story, we can make sure he never sees a dime for his crimes.”

Specifically, Harris-Moore pleaded guilty to bank burglary; interstate transportation of an aircraft; interstate and foreign transportation of a stolen firearm; fugitive in possession of a firearm; piloting an aircraft without a valid airman's certificate; interstate transportation of a stolen vessel and interstate transportation of a stolen aircraft.

The Camano Island youth still faces more charges in state Superior Court in connection with his crime spree, and is expected to enter pleas to those charges at a future date.

Witnesses said Harris-Moore chuckled with his attorneys at one point during Friday's hearing. Asked why, attorney John Henry Browne later told reporters that prosecutors forgot to mention a stolen TV dinner in their review of stolen property.

The charges against Harris-Moore stemmed from his lengthy flight from justice, which began in April 2008 after he escaped from a Renton group home.

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 also is accused of stealing boats, firearms, cash, yachts and luxury cars, burglarizing stores and homes, and even burglarizing a bank ATM machine in the San Juan Islands.

In between his crimes, police say, he hid out in the woods or in vacant homes, sometimes barely eluding law enforcement officers trying to track him down.

Authorities say he committed most of his crimes in the Pacific Northwest. Then in 2010, he made his way from the San Juan Islands to Oregon in a 32-foot boat stolen in southwestern Washington - stopping first to leave $100 at an animal shelter in Raymond, Wash.

From Oregon, authorities said, Harris-Moore hopscotched his way across the United States.

According to the U.S. Attorney's Office, Harris-Moore committed crimes in British Columbia, Canada, and eight states - Washington, Idaho, Oregon, Wyoming, South Dakota, Nebraska, Iowa and Indiana.

His alleged exploits gained him cult status as an authority-mocking folk hero and earned him a following on Facebook, where fans urged him to keep running.

At one point, his mother, Pam Kohler, said she was "proud" of him for stealing aircraft and urged him to move up to larger, two-engine planes.

His crime spree came to a screeching halt in July 2010, when he allegedly stole an aircraft from a Bloomington, Ind., airport and flew it to the Bahamas, where he crash-landed. He was arrested soon after.

Before the plea deal, Harris-Moore had been scheduled to go on trial in July.