Saturday, December 17, 2011



Well, there’s finally some closure to the case. I know you’ve all seen the news reports and know the sentence handed down by the judge on Colt’s Washington State charges: 87 months. With time off for good behavior, that means Colt could walk out right around his 26th birthday.

I’m back on Orcas after the visit to Coupeville to see the sentencing. In many ways it was a very remarkable event, a fitting end to this story and to this phase of Colton Harris-Moore’s life. According to Colt’s lawyer, John Henry Browne, Colt was ready to accept anywhere within the sentencing range, and so he’s very happy the judge showed compassion and gave him the lowest possible sentence.

Judge Vicki Churchill's statement at sentencing was unlike any I’d ever heard from a judge. I’ll write about that and many more things in the days to come. Right now, though, I’ve got very few hours to add the ending to my book about Colt.

In the meantime, for those who haven’t already done so, I highly recommend reading the mitigation package filed by Colt’s defense (link to NYTimes), Colt’s letter to the judge (link to KIRO TV), and the prosecution’s filings (link to Island County).  


  1. I’ve read pieces of the reports and I’ve watched a few of the video clips. What keeps running through my head is how difficult Friday must have been for Colton. I had a perfectly fine childhood and yet I think I would have been mortified had it been discussed in such a public setting. Given his early life story as told in court—with him standing right there—it must have been incredibly humiliating.

    Most of us following your blog have probably been serious about understanding Colton. We’ve eagerly followed your reporting out of genuine concern for him. For some of us, maybe it’s been a call to action, or at least a reaffirmation of our desire to help keep other kids from falling into the same chasm that swallowed Colt.

    For the other people on the planet who rode the international wave of publicity in the early part of 2010, who jumped on the folk-hero trend, apparently the excitement has passed on to something else; from what I read, there were far fewer people in Coupeville on Friday than anticipated – virtually no ‘Colton fans’, and not even enough reporters to fill the overflow viewing room.

    For Colton’s sake, I’m happy about that. You’ve told us that he doesn’t want to be a cult hero. I remember hearing him say on some footage from the Bahamas to “get those cameras out of here”. And I think I saw on Friday, a guy who wanted nothing more than to be as far away from the cameras and the recorders as possible.

    But for your sake, Bob, I hope that people do stay interested, especially those people who care seriously about our country’s approach to social services, education, family and child support institutions, and our criminal justice systems. You’ve put extraordinary time and energy into the book and I want it to be a great success for you. Will I read it in part for the thrill of the adventure story? Sure. I’m no better than anyone else in that regard. And having read your ‘Outside’ article (more than once) I’m positive the story as you tell it will be absolutely fascinating. I’ll also read it, though, for your insights into the social issues and institutions. I really hope lots of other people do the same.

    The parts I heard of Judge Churchill’s remarks prior to sentencing were astoundingly compassionate. It almost sounded like she was going to let Colt walk (which would have been unbelievably unfair to all his victims). But her thoughts about Colton’s story being one of “the triumph of the human spirit…” were really interesting and caught me off-guard. Was she effectively praising Colt for, at least in part, doing what he had to do to keep himself alive?

    The next four…five…seven years will certainly be another test of Colton’s spirit. With absolutely no disrespect intended to his many victims, I think it’s pretty clear from the comments made on this blog by the regular posters that an awful lot of us have really developed a great affection for this ‘kid’ and wish him nothing but the best. Hopefully, when you write the sequel book in 10 or 15 years, your original title for the first book, “Taking Flight”, will be even more meaningful. Hopefully we’ll be able to say that not only did Colton take flight from his horrible childhood; not only did he take flight from the law; not only did he literally take flight in aircraft under his control; but he also reset his moral GPS (compasses are so passé), turned himself around, and took flight into a successful and happy life!

    With a major chapter in Colton’s story coming to a close, and with the end of the year near, this seems like a really good time to thank you, Bob, for caring enough to write about Colt and for keeping us all informed and educated about how this whole odyssey came to be. Happy holidays!

  2. Bob,

    I sent a comment but it didn't post.
    Do you have updated information on Colton's current location since his sentencing on Friday? I would like to send him mail.

    Also, the address you did provide at the FDC didn't have a Unit #/Name which the handbook says is mandatory for the mail to be delivered properly. Do you have any information on that?

    I tried to look him up in both the WA state and Federal inmate locators to no avail.

  3. Hi Abby,

    The address I previously posted worked fine without any other unit numbers.

    Colt hasn't shown up in locators because he hadn't been sentenced. He should as soon as they input him into the state system.

    Not sure right now where to write to him. His attorney told me he was going into the state system soon. I'll post any update to that info I get.

  4. I saw his day in court through the Island county website where they had a link to a live recording of it. It really was a remarkable event, I was glued to my computer screen the whole time.

    I’ll never forget this one part where I believe they were talking about his childhood and they had the camera at a tight close up of his face, and while they were talking about it it seemed as if he wanted to cry, for a few seconds I was certain that tears were gonna run down that boy’s face, but he quickly got it together. I almost cried myself listening to it, later I read an article that mentioned he was “struggling to fight back tears” That just validated what I saw and felt. That poor boy was probably reliving his whole childhood pain. It must be hard for your family business to be out like that, I would have been just as embarrassed as I’m sure he was.

    I also had no idea about just how shy he really is, during almost the whole sentencing he had his head down staring at the floor never once looking up unless he was called on.

    It was interesting to hear his lawyers speak about him not knowning that he was hurting people and scaring them, seems like he was really naive to it all, even more so than I thought. Reading Colton’s letter of responsibility to the judge was very telling, I felt like it gave insight into his mind while he was on the run, and gave a motivation. I’m sure everyone wondered why he did this in the first place and I felt like this gave an explanation along with his psychiatry report and the discovery of Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder. It’s certainly not an excuse but an explanation as his lawyers say, and I fully agree.

    If only he was diagnosed early on and got the proper treatment he needed I’m certain this wouldn’t have happened, this has been said a million times but it’s true. He definitely should not rot in prison, I think people forget what the Criminal Justice System was first intended for which was to rehabilitate offenders, not just lock them up, keep them away from people and have them rot for years and years. But to actually help them become a better person so when they get out they can become a productive member of society. And Colton is a perfect candidate for that! People need to keep that in mind, this boy can be saved. They couldn’t help him when he was younger but they can certainly try now, I hope they don’t let him fall through the cracks this time as they did in the past. I can only hope that he now gets the help he needs and become an even better version of a person that he is now.

    As for the sentence, I think it was fair. Some people may think it’s too harsh or not harsh enough, but I’d say I’m satisfied with it (was hoping he’d get six years not seven though) but nontheless I’m happy. What I’m worried about now is the Federal sentencing, hopefully it’s not as harsh. I’m still committed to this case and probably always will be, a few years from now when his story has passed I’m sure I will still be thinking of Colton his story has touched me in may ways, I feel like I can relate to him. Now I didn’t have as bad of a childhood as he did, but somethings I can certainly relate too.

    I can’t wait till your book comes out, I’m surely going to get it the first day it’s finally available. P.S I saw you at the sentencing, you shook hands with John Henry Browne in the beginning, I thought that was kinda cool haha.

  5. Some really well considered comments here. Great to know people are paying such close attention to the story and realize the deeper meanings it has regarding parental responsibility, the social systems put in place as a safety net, and the cost to society in money, security, and wasted lives when things fail.

    Re the federal sentence: Max in the fed sentencing range is 78 months. By the time he's sentenced, Colt will have already been in custody 18 months, so I don't see the federal judge giving him the max. The low end of the fed range is 63 months, about two months more than he'll serve of his state sentence if he maximizes his good boy credits... My bet is the federal sentence will be such that when Colt is finished with the state time, he'll go free.

    And re the TV camera and live feed... Very cool that everyone who wanted to was able to watch the proceedings. I didn't realize they were running when court was not in session, though! I wonder if they caught the very embarrassing moment I had before the judge walked in. I'll post that story soon.

  6. Ned, your comment said it all perfectly. Thank you.

    Thank goodness the judge was a woman; I do believe her motherly instincts affected the sentence she handed down. I hope her words comforted Colt and let him know that he was seen for the whole of who he is. All many of us wanted was for him to be recognized and defined by more than his criminal actions.

  7. Hi Bob,

    I hope you're surviving the wild weather - if it's hitting Orcas like it's affecting further south - preferably by relaxing in front of a blazing fire, but only if you have a fireplace.

    Have you heard if Colton's federal sentencing is still on schedule for next Friday, Jan. 27? the book complete and still on schedule for a March appearance in bookstores?

  8. Hi Ned,

    We're snowed in for awhile with the one steep hill leading out of our neck of the woods iced over. But the wood stove is cooking and keeping the cabin warm.

    Colt's federal sentencing in Seattle is still on for next Friday.

    The book is done, printed, and piled somewhere waiting delivery to booksellers for the March 20 release date. I'm now busy creating a website which will act like the "special features" part of a DVD, with maps, photos, videos, deleted sections and so on that will complement the book. I'll get back to posting here--and post about the new site--soon.


  9. Great news about the book. Congratulations! I'll be waiting by the mailbox starting March 20. Keep that wood stove toasty. Have you thought about taking up downhill skating?

  10. Hey Bob
    IF you want to laugh and learn something at the same time watch Jerry Lewis's Methods to the Madness. There is a scene from the Bellboy and a scene from the Nutty Professor that I wonder if Colten Harris ever saw. Have fun finding them.