Harris-Moore's mom: 'I told him I would send him to flight school ... but I guess he couldn't wait'

Colton Harris-Moore after his arrest in the Bahamas on July 11, 2010.   - AP photo
Colton Harris-Moore after his arrest in the Bahamas on July 11, 2010.
— image credit: AP photo

When Colton Harris-Moore calls his mom from jail, they never talk about his time as a teen fugitive.

"I tell him about his dog and what's going on here and how the blackberry bushes have started to take over the backyard," said Pam Kohler, mother of the alleged plane and boat thief known as the Barefoot Bandit. "We talk about basic things. I try to keep his spirits up and tell him to call upon his inner strength, which I have always taught him."

Harris-Moore, 19, of Camano Island, is suspected of committing burglaries and thefts in several Washington counties as well as Oregon, Idaho, Wyoming, South Dakota, Nebraska, Iowa, Illinois, Indiana, and the Bahamas before his arrest on July 11 by Royal Bahamian Police. He is called the Barefoot Bandit because he is believed to have been barefoot while committing some of his alleged crimes in San Juan County.

Harris-Moore is being held in a private cell in a federal SeaTac detention center after pleading not guilty to five criminal charges leveled by a federal grand jury. Harris-Moore’s Seattle trial is scheduled for Jan. 18. Four of the five federal charges he’s currently facing could earn him 10 years in prison and a $250,000 fine.

According to a Nov. 18 Associated Press story, Harris-Moore’s lawyer John Henry Browne is working with prosecutors on a plea deal that could involve using book or movie deal profits to compensate victims, potentially reducing the teen’s sentence; the deal also may involve resolving both federal and state charges against Harris-Moore.

Kohler, who lives on Camano Island, says her son has no interest in profiting from his alleged exploits.

"Colt doesn't want anything to do with anything," she said. "He realizes he does have to pay restitution but he is reluctant to (profit from what he's done). But he knows he may have to."

Kohler has looked into book and movie opportunities, but is currently not involved in anything. She expressed anger at writer Bob Friel who lives on Orcas Island, where Harris-Moore has been connected to a series of burglaries as well as boat and plane thefts. Friel wrote a feature on Harris-Moore for "Outside" magazine and has a book coming out in 2011. His book has been optioned by 20th Century Fox. Variety reported the film is called "Taking Flight: The Hunt for a Young Outlaw."

"Pam Kohler was one of many sources for my 'Outside' magazine article, which is the basis for my book on the Barefoot Bandit," Friel said. "She believes that I’ve gotten in the way of her attempts to make media deals, which is absolutely untrue. She’s free to do whatever she wants to try to make money off her son’s story with book or movie projects."

Kohler says she speaks with her son once a month.

"He sounded good on the phone the last time he called me," she said. "I sent him a subscription to National Geographic because I know how much he likes animals ... he is mentally okay, he just has a lot to deal with right now."

When asked to lend insight into why Harris-Moore embarked on an alleged life of crime, Kohler is quick to say that it had nothing to do with her.

"I really dislike that everyone says he did it because of me," she said. "I didn't raise him any different than I raised my oldest boy (a half brother who is 20 years older than Harris-Moore). I didn't plant things in his head to do the things he did. And I never said I was proud that he stole planes. I said I was proud that he taught himself how to fly them ... he always wanted to fly airplanes, that's all I know. I had told him I would send him to flight school after he graduated, but I guess he couldn't wait."

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