Thursday, July 22, 2010


Well, Colton had another “day” in court: Approximately eight minutes in front of Judge Brian Tsuchida at the US Courthouse in Seattle. I don’t think anyone expected an escapee who’s led all kinds of law enforcement on a chase that spanned three countries to get bail, and his attorney didn’t argue for it.

An Assistant US Attorney presented the argument that because Harris-Moore is believed to have flown as many as five airplanes without proper training — as well as allegedly taking a shot at police and aiming a laser gun sight at a homeowner in South Dakota — that he is an obvious danger to the community as well as a flight risk.

On the community side, I can tell you that there has been a collective sigh of relief here on Orcas Island now that Colton is in custody and we know he won’t be coming back this summer. Whether you believed he was dangerous or not, or even if you felt sorry for some aspects of Colton’s early life, the unnerving thought was never far from your mind that he might be there, watching from the woods — and we have lots of woods. You never felt that you, your family or your property were completely safe when he was on the island. Now, the island’s small business owners who lost money during burglaries and had to put out more for new security systems hope that they can go back to only worrying that the tourist season shapes up good enough to get them through next winter.

For those who’ve stayed at a distance from this story, it’s always been easy (and lazy) to head to the black and white extremes, to firmly stand either with the Colton fans or those gunning for him to “Stick his head in my house” so they could blow it off. But to get closer to understanding, and to see the gray areas that reside in every story and in every life, you’ve got to empathize. And in this story, that means both with Colton and with the many victims.

After the court appearance, Colton’s defense attorney, John Henry Brown, passed a message to the media he says was from Colt, basically saying “Kids don’t try this at home…”

Or on the run.


  1. i just started following the story and found your blog to be honest and insightful. you are a very good writer! has an article about his childhood and even linked his psych evaluation from his 2007 arrest. is that even legal? also, since you have met his mother and interviewed people who know him, what is his relationship with his mother really like?

  2. Did he shoot? Did he really shoot a police with a gun? Oh gosh, maybe I'm not going to be over his side anymore if its true~~!

  3. Excellent questions. I got access to all those court documents last year and used them to fill in some of the history of Colton's childhood.

    Honestly, I was shocked that they were public record because they all dealt with a juvenile and included psychiatric reports. But there they were and now CNN has posted them on the internet. Public records are... public, so I assume no laws have been broken. The big question is why was I or CNN or anyone else (all the media outlets have gotten those records over the last few months), able to simply go to the courthouse and get them?

    Again I'm no lawyer, but I believe that someone (Colton, his mom) could have requested that those records be sealed back when that case was adjudicated. At this point, it's probably in the best interests of his defense case that they're out there, telling the narrative of a tough childhood. Though when you read all of these documents, there are certainly signs that Colton had his own behavioral problems and issues.

    Forgive me if, right now, all I say about Colton's relationship with his mother is that it has been stormy -- like hurricane strength stormy -- at times. There are stories I have, though, that speak to some unshakeable bonds.

  4. I've seen a couple references to 'his brother'. Does Colton have siblings or step siblings and, if so, are they part of his life in any way? What kind of relationship does he have with them?

  5. To Razi's question: Did he shoot?

    We don't know for sure at this point. Police went into the woods in Granite Falls, WA, when they discovered a camp or cache near a house that had been broken into AFTER a plane stolen in Idaho hard landed on a nearby hillside.

    That plane is the subject of the Federal charge now filed against Colton, so obviously they believe that it and the cache are tied to him.

    When police entered the woods, they reported a shot fired. This prompted calls for SWAT and a DHS Black Hawk etc to cordon off the area. No suspect was ever found, however they believe -- and strongly believe that they can prove -- that it was Colt they were chasing.

    As to the actual shot. I don't know if they'll ever prove that or that we'll ever know. There are a lot of people with guns in that area. It's a rural area with a lot of deer... A defense attorney could throw a lot of reasonable doubt into it.

    What do I believe? I believe that the police have and will tie handguns to Colton. The "shot" is very troubling. BUT, again, what I know about this story is that it is too complex to simply choose sides.

    Nothing and no one in this story is going to simply fit into a good or bad box and get tied up with a bow. Some of the media will try to make it so, but look at their format: If you're watching a shout show, then they have to have things black and white, snake and mongoose, and have people fight it out.

    Most people, I trust, are smarter than that, though. And to really understand this story they're going to have to be willing to go on an up and down, triumph and tragedy, predator and prey, big ol' jambalaya of a story where there is some good and bad to various degrees in almost all of the people involved.

  6. Regarding Colt's sibling or siblings: I'm sorry, I don't feel it's appropriate for me to comment on that at this time. We're in the feeding frenzy stage of this story and anyone who gets mentioned anywhere is fresh meat. You'll understand more on this issue when I tell the full story.

  7. i have to admit i read the entire psych report and it actually made me cry. it is so sad some of the things he says, especially when he said that he slept better and had more energy being on the run than being at home. and i guess you can't comment right now, but i hope there is a VERY good reason why no one from his extended family came to help him.

  8. This may sound childish....but did he hang out at friends' houses after school? Did he date? Did he go to school dances? Was any part of his life somewhat normal?? I feel so bad for him...

    And to think there are thousands of kids out there now who are in the same situations...

  9. I'm so glad you made that point, Bob, about Granite Falls being rural. Having grown up in rural Idaho, I know that gunshots in the mountains are extremely common; hunting and/or target practice are one of the main forms of entertainment in rural areas.

    Despite having many opportunities, Colt never crossed that boundary of shooting a gun. I'm proud of him for that bit of self control.

  10. Bob: This just popped up on KOMO's website:

    "Lawyer: 'Barefoot Bandit' not interested in movie deal"

    "Colton Harris-Moore, the infamous "Barefoot Bandit" who allegedly stole planes, yachts and more during a cross-country crime spree, doesn't like the attention he's getting and doesn't want his story told, his lawyer told ABC News on Sunday."

    How will this impact the book?

  11. Colton has always maintained that he would never talk about any of this. I've believed that. There may be people who've helped him at certain points (the mysterious family his mom says Colt told her he lived with) and if he told his complete tale it might implicate them.

    But this won't effect my book at all. I'm doing investigative journalism (plus my first-hand experiences such as living here on Orcas and following Colton through all this). I'm recreating his life and times through intensive research and hundreds of interviews with everyone I can find who had anything to do with this long saga -- plus what I've seen, heard, felt and experienced.

    It's like pointillism in that by using all these disparate bits of color (or story detail) you can create a full picture.

    A lot of people realize that they need a certain level of maturity and worldview before they can wrestle with their demons enough to know themselves and honestly talk or write about it. Maybe 20 years from now Colt will tell us the story from his point of view. I'd certainly want to hear it.

    An interesting point that I'm sure people will speculate about is that if Colton is found guilty of anything and restitution is ordered, would both he and the victims be better off if he actually did sell his story.

    Anyone out there who's been a victim of crime where they've been awarded restitution knows that often your $20,000 loss is paid off by an ex-con sending you $7 checks every other week for 100 years.

    If there was a movie deal, perhaps Colton could use it to pay off any restitution that was ordered, immediately making the victims whole. Then, when he was done serving his time, Colt wouldn't be saddled with those bills and could have a clean start.

  12. Not that I like the idea of Colton or his family profiting from his escapades but come to think of it, other than a book/movie deal, what other realistic ways are there for him to repay his victims reasonably quickly? Even if he’s a clever, intelligent and decent guy, he’s probably not going to walk out of jail in however many years and be financially successful enough to reimburse potentially millions of dollars. Give him 20 years to do well and it might be a different story but having to wait so long does not seem fair to the people he affected. Is it even possible for victims to ever fully recover (will Orcas and Camano Islanders ever go back to leaving their doors unlocked)?

  13. Exactly... I'd love to see the financial victims made whole asap. Tourist spending still looks to be down with this lousy economy, and having their losses covered would sure help the small businesses get through the fall and winter.

    As for the psychological and lifestyle side... The fact that Colton didn't physically hurt anyone is a huge help with those trying to get back to "normal." But I do have to say that anyone dumb enough to look at this story and say "I think I'll try the same thing" on Orcas or Camano would find a much rougher reception --and tighter security and zero sense of humor about it.

    Orcas remains a fantastically peaceful place to live, but the community is more aware than ever of watching over neighbors and their property.