Monday, November 21, 2011

Colton Harris-Moore's WA State Plea Hearing Set

Word from Island County is that December 16 is now a firm date for Colt's plea hearing. Colt will appear in Coupeville and plead guilty to a number of charges relating to crimes in several Washington State counties. The judge will announce his sentence at the same hearing.

Saturday, November 19, 2011


Hi All,

Thanks again for your patience. Ever since I finished my book on the Barefoot Bandit this past spring, I’ve been traveling and working on several other fascinating stories that I’ll talk about here soon.  The deadlines have kept me hopping so I haven’t been able to post much here. And, frankly, there hasn’t been much to update on Colt besides endless court delays.

So, you say, if the book was finished in the spring, where is it? As some of you remember, we decided not to release the book while Colton made his way through the court system. For one, I wanted to make sure the book had a definitive ending, and two, I didn’t want to chance having the book’s research used by any of the parties in the legal wranglings. Unfortunately, those decisions mean the book release has been held up all these months.

Much worse, of course, in my opinion, is that Colton has been held in legal limbo without being sentenced. Whether you’re for him, against him, or just neutral, you’ve got to be disappointed in a system that has kept an American citizen in a federal jail for 16 months that, when it’s all said and done, will most likely not count toward his overall sentence. Those of you who’ve been following the story know Colt has a complicated legal path. But briefly, his Washington State sentence will be longer than the federal sentence, and WA prosecutors tell me that their clock doesn’t start running until he appears in state court. So even if the federal judge uses his discretion and reduces his fed sentence by the amount of time he’s already served, that will be meaningless in the total time he spends behind bars.

On the other hand, Colt did start his famous run by escaping state custody with time still left on his original three-year sentence, and all of this time he could have been held in state prison on the old sentence to the same effect… And, he did waive his Sixth Amendment rights (speedy trial) once he was placed in federal custody. I just don’t like the idea of any citizen held for so long without knowing their ultimate fate.
Almost all the legal gymnastics over this case were completed early this summer. It appears it has primarily been one Washington county that has held up the state’s combined plea deal. Skagit County – where Colt stole a plane during the Winter Olympics and flew it here to Orcas Island – was in and out of the deal for about five months until finally dismissing their charges on October 28. The language of the order of dismissal says the “state is not prepared to proceed at this time.” This allows the other Washington counties to go ahead with their combined plea deal with Colt, though obviously it leaves the door open for Skagit to still try him later in a separate case. (For those out there wondering how I can say Colt stole that plane instead of “allegedly” stole that plane, Colt already plead guilty in federal court to flying that specific plane without a license.)

Several readers have written in asking where Colton is being held. He is still in Seatac Federal Detention Center. A date floated for him to finally appear in Island County for the state plea hearing and sentencing is December 16, but I’ll believe that when I see him actually walk into the courtroom. After that, the federal judge will announce his sentence, which, again, is most likely moot, since the state will give him more time behind bars for the gun-theft charge in Granite Falls.

There’s a lot more to update and to answer your questions, but I’m trying not to write book-length posts here. I’ll start posting much more often in the very near future with news on how Colt is doing in prison, plus news on the book (the March 2012 pub date is carved in stone at this point, so you won’t be getting any more notices from Amazon or your local bookseller that it’s been pushed back. If they somehow delay the court stuff again, I’ll just have to do the final sentencing updates here on this blog). As the book release gets close, I’ll also be posting some of its exclusive material here and on a Facebook “author” page that will go live soon. And yes, I’ll update news on the movie, which everyone seems interested in.

To answer the most common question I’m getting: Colt seems to be doing okay so far. He’s understandably impatient with the delays and wants to start serving his sentences. As far as prison-limbo goes, Seatac FDC isn’t the worst place in the country to be held. He’s surrounded primarily with white-collar crooks, so it’s not the nightmare stuff of HBO’s Oz. Not that it’s where you’d choose to spend your summer vacation if you had other options. In the meantime, Colt continues to read a lot and correspond with friends. He appreciates that a number of people have taken the time to write letters in support, which will be included in the defense’s presentation to the judge at his sentencing.