Saturday, January 28, 2012

Colton Harris-Moore Federal Sentence

On Friday, Judge Richard Jones handed down a sentence of six-and-a-half years for the seven federal charges included in Colton Harris-Moore's plea deal. This was at the top of the sentencing range, as requested by the US Attorney. However, the sentence does offer credit for the time Harris-Moore has already spent in custody at Seatac Federal Detention Center. Colt has been held there since July 2010.

The federal sentence will run concurrent with Colt's 87-month Washington State sentence, which is set to begin counting down when he turns 21 in March.

Between the WA state charges, federal charges, and the various other crimes committed during Colt's cross-country run before he flew to the Bahamas in a plane he stole from Bloomington, Indiana, Colt has pleaded guilty to or "acknowledged, as relevant conduct" some 67 crimes. He hasn't been charged with any of the dozen or so crimes the Canadians say they believe he committed up there. And the Bahamians simply charged him with an immigration violation instead of the car theft, multiple boat thefts, series of commercial and residential burglaries, and severe gun charges they had evidence of during his time in the islands.

It was a busy 27 months on the lam for Colton Harris-Moore. However, he says that he did have some peaceful down time, including the hours spent perched in his aerie here on Orcas Island's Turtleback Mountain, where he tuned in to aviation chatter on the radio, and studied flying. In November 2008, he climbed down from his nest and flew into history by stealing and flying the first of five airplanes without ever having gone to flight school.

Colt's next move will be from Seatac FDC to a state prison. The exact one is still tbd. There, Colt says he'll concentrate on his education, and he still plans to aim for the sky, starting an aeronautical company when he gets out.

When will that be? The huge number of felonies for crimes like stealing planes, boats, cars, guns and identities would make you think of a throw-away-the-key type sentence, but the prosecutors and judges all work within sentencing guidelines. Instead of a series of long, expensive trials, all of this was decided with plea deals where in return for saving the counties and the federal government money and time, defendants are given lesser sentences. Big factors in the sentencing were also that none of these charges was for a violent crime, AND, because compared to the vast majority of criminals, Colt has a much better shot at paying restitution to his victims even though he owes well over $1 million. In John Henry Browne and Emma Scanlon, Colt also received an excellent, vigorous defense, just as we all deserve.

The US Attorney's Office brought a good case. They won the PR battle by using those phone transcripts and emails, and got their 78 months. They'd also argued, however, that Colt should not get federal credit for his time served, saying that it should only go toward the remainder of the juvenile sentence Colt skipped out on by escaping the group home. The judge didn't agree.    

So weighing everything, what's fair? A source that is certainly in a position to know now tells me that if Colt behaves in prison, he'll walk out before his 25th birthday--which Colt will celebrate in about four years and seven weeks from today.


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