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Harris-Moore pleads guilty in federal court, will answer to San Juan County's case in July
One down, 16 to go.
Camano Island's most infamous native son, Colton Harris-Moore, pleaded guilty Friday in a federal courtroom in Seattle to seven criminal charges, including the burglary of the Orcas Island branch of Islanders Bank in Eastsound on Sept. 5, 2009.
Harris-Moore, 20, who netted the nickname "Barefoot Bandit" during a two-year international crime spree that ended with his arrest in the Bahamas a year ago in July, promised to forfeit all rights he may have to any movie, book deal or payment of any kind associated with his crimes as part of the plea agreement struck with federal authorities, according to San Juan County Prosecutor Randall K. Gaylord.
"Mr. Harris-Moore will not profit from his crimes," Gaylord said in a prepared statement regarding the plea agreement approved in federal court. "At the same time, victims of his crimes will have a fund from which to seek to be reimbursed and to have restitution paid. I fully support and approve of the action taken by the United States Attorney."
Harris-Moore reportedly owes roughly $1.4 million in restitution in the federal case, and $250,000 or more for crimes allegedly committed in Washington state.
While Friday's guilty plea marks the beginning of the end of Harris-Moore's case in federal court — sentencing is slated for Oct. 28 — he faces more than 30 criminal charges filed in four different counties in Washington state, including 16 felonies allegedly committed in San Juan County. Federal prosecutors will recommend that he serve five to six years in prison under the plea agreement.
Gaylord noted Harris-Moore admitted as part of his plea in the federal case that he used tools stolen during a break-in of the Ace Hardware store in Eastsound in burglarizing the nearby branch of Islanders Bank. Orcas Island deputies began referring to an elusive suspect as the "Barefoot Bandit" or "Barefoot Burglar" after finding footprints at the scene of several break-ins and thefts in the area of Eastsound.
In addition to Ace Hardware and Islanders Bank, Harris-Moore allegedly committed nearly a dozen burglaries and thefts in the San Juans, and repeatedly stole boats and airplanes, which he reportedly learn to fly by reading flight manuals and instructions available on the Internet, during a crime spree that spanned two years in the San Juans. He faces another 20 criminal charges filed collectively in Island, Skagit and Snohomish counties.
Convicted of burglary as a teen in Island County, Harris-Moore's exploits and alleged crime spree began shortly after his escape from a halfway house in Renton.
Gaylord said the next step for county prosecutors will be to bring Harris-Morris before a judge in Island County to answer to the 30-plus alleged crimes filed in the four counties. It will take about a month to set schedules and to prepare the paperwork to bring him to the Island County Courthouse in Coupeville.
Gaylord anticipates San Juan County's case against Harris-Moore will be heard, at least initially, at the upcoming hearing in Island County.
"The Island County judge has full authority to sit as a San Juan County judge, and it would beefficient to have a consolidated hearing" he said.
— Scott Rasmussen