"Barefoot Bandit" pleads guilty to crime spree charges

COUPEVILLE, Wash Fri Dec 16, 2011 4:23pm EST

Colton Harris-Moore (L), the Barefoot Bandit, talks with one of his lawyers at his sentencing in Island Superior Court in Coupeville, Washington, December 16, 2011. REUTERS/Marcus Donner

Colton Harris-Moore (L), the Barefoot Bandit, talks with one of his lawyers at his sentencing in Island Superior Court in Coupeville, Washington, December 16, 2011.

Credit: Reuters/Marcus Donner

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COUPEVILLE, Wash (Reuters) - The 20-year-old serial burglar dubbed the "Barefoot Bandit" pleaded guilty on Friday to over 30 charges stemming from his two-year crime spree as a sometimes shoeless teenage runaway in Washington state.

Colton Harris-Moore, 20, already had agreed to plead guilty to burglary and other offenses at the hearing before a superior court judge in the Puget Sound hamlet of Coupeville, about 60 miles northwest of Seattle on Whidbey Island.

Standing with his wrists shackled, a pale-looking Harris-Moore spoke quietly as he formally entered those guilty pleas in a packed courtroom.

Prosecutor Greg Banks told the judge, who is expected to sentence Harris-Moore on Friday, that he was seeking nine years and eight months in prison for the defendant, for crimes in Washington state's Island and Snohomish counties.

That would run concurrently with a lesser sentence request from prosecutors in nearby San Juan County.

Banks said prosecutors are aware of Harris-Moore's "extremely sad upbringing" but that he displayed a "brazen disrespect for the law."

The hearing caps months of bargaining between prosecutors and attorneys for the high school dropout and self-taught pilot, who stayed one step ahead of the law as he broke into dozens of homes and stole cars, boats and planes across nine states and British Columbia.

Harris-Moore pleaded guilty on Friday to 32 charges from Island, Snohomish and San Juan counties, including residential burglary and attempting to elude pursuing police. To an additional charge of gun theft, Harris-Moore entered an Alford plea, in which a defendant asserts innocence of a crime but the court treats it as a guilty plea.

Island County Superior Court Judge Vickie Churchill said that, with his plea, he is guilty on all those charges.

He still faces up to 6-1/2 years in prison when he is sentenced in January in federal court.

Harris-Moore's attorney, John Henry Browne, asked the judge on Friday to consider the defendant's life story when sentencing him. His client's first memory was his mother telling him "we would all be better off if you had been born dead," Browne said.

Another defense attorney, Emma Scanlan, said Harris-Moore suffers from fetal alcohol spectrum disorder.

CRASH LANDING

Captured in the Bahamas in July 2010 after crash-landing a stolen aircraft he had flown from Indiana, Harris-Moore pleaded guilty in June of this year to federal charges aimed at resolving all but the Washington state criminal cases pending against him.

As part of that agreement, Harris-Moore forfeited his ability to profit from the rights to his life story. He also signed a movie deal with 20th Century Fox earmarking $1.3 million in proceeds as restitution to his victims.

A prosecutor in Cody, Wyoming, has indicated to local media that Harris-Moore faced additional charges there but did not return repeated phone calls from Reuters.

Browne said his client had composed a "beautiful" letter he may read in court before he is sentenced.

Harris-Moore, who grew up on Puget Sound's Camano Island, was identified by authorities as a suspect in a wave of crimes, including several plane thefts, after escaping from a juvenile detention center in April 2008.

Shoeless footprints, some outlined in chalk, were left behind at the scenes of a number of his crimes, leading authorities to refer to him as the barefoot bandit.

"Colton Harris-Moore is not a hero and he certainly does not believe that," said Scanlan, his attorney.

But on Friday he had a number of fans at the courthouse.

Hayley Hanna, 18, a Central Washington University student, was one of those supporters.

"I think he's kind of a bad-ass, I feel bad for him," she said.

(Writing by Steve Gorman; Editing by Alex Dobuzinskis and Jerry Norton)

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