Saturday, June 18, 2011


Colton appeared in Seattle federal court yesterday for a change of plea hearing that laid out the agreement reached for the Federal charges and all other charges against him outside of Washington State.

After the reports of a prison-volleyball injury (amazing what makes the news), Colt walked into the courtroom without a limp. He looked fine, though paler than when I last saw him in the Bahamas, which is to be expected after nearly a year in Seatac Federal Detention Center. Instead of the t-shirt and shorts he wore in the Bahamas courtroom, Colt had on a green button-down shirt over khaki pants. He smiled as he greeted his attorney, John Henry Browne, but spent the rest of the hour-long proceedings looking down at his printed plea or directly at Judge Richard Jones.

At the prosecution table were Assistant US Attorneys Darwin Roberts and Michael Dion along with Special Agent Linwood Smith who headed the FBI investigation.

The judge addressed Colton as “sir” throughout, and questioned him thoroughly about whether he understood what was going on, the rights he was giving up, and the charges for which he was prepared to change his plea from not guilty to guilty. Colt answered everything with either “yes sir” or “no sir” in a clear voice. Darwin Roberts spoke for the US and read the 7 federal charges along with a “Statement of Fact” in which Colt was admitting responsibility for more than 25 additional crimes in Idaho, Iowa, Indiana, Nebraska, South Dakota and Wyoming. Those crimes were primarily the car thefts and hangar break-ins during his cross-country run and included the plane theft that took him from Indiana to the Bahamas.

Colt’s punishment for the crimes will include prison time, presumably some probation, restitution and forfeiture of any and all proceeds from ever telling or trading on his story.

The prison sentence recommendation for these crimes is 63 to 78 months. The final number will be decided by the judge at the end of October. The agreement states that whatever the final sentence, it will be served in Washington State prisons.

Colt admits that that the losses attributable to these crimes add up to $1,409,438.

The forfeiture section of the agreement states that, so far, Colt owes $959,438 in restitution. There will be another amount somewhere north of $250,000 added for Washington State crime victims.

Colt can start to pay that off with proceeds from his story. Out of the 28 page plea agreement, seven pages dealt with Colt’s ability to tell or sell his story or otherwise trade on the publicity garnered during his run as the Barefoot Bandit. Jenny Durkin, the US Attorney for the Western District, says that the agreement ensures that Colt will never personally make a dime off his crimes. Those seven pages spell out that any money from movies, books, video games, Happy Meal toys, or anything else you can possibly think of that would go to Colt based on any of these events will instead go to pay restitution. If it ever got to the point where he paid back all the victims, then money earned beyond that will go, I presume, to help reduce the federal deficit.

Colt has consistently said that he does not want himself or his family to profit off the crimes and, as the plea agreement mentions, is currently negotiating to sell his limited life rights to a movie studio in order to start paying restitution to victims.

Next up for Colton Harris-Moore is an appearance in a Washington State courtroom where he’ll plead guilty to crimes in Island, San Juan, Snohomish and Skagit counties. From current and expected filings, that agreement will include 32 charges. The most serious state charge is a burglary during which he took a pistol. Sentencing guidelines for that crime alone max at 116 months.

The combined pleas will run concurrent, but the net result of the state sentence will most likely mean that Colt will get prison time in excess of the 78-month federal sentence. With the current Washington State laws carrying mandatory minimums for crimes involving firearms, Colt could wind up serving 100 months.

As for Colton’s long-term plans: He wants to study aeronautical engineering.