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Mob missing on bandit's big day
Colton Harris-Moore appeared in Island County Superior Court for sentencing Friday but the Barefoot Bandit's entourage, expected to number in the hundreds or more, never showed.
Although dozens of journalists, many from mainstream broadcast and print media organizations such as Fox News and the New York Times, did line up at the courthouse door for the 9 a.m. hearing, the turnout was a far cry from the mob scene anticipated by local law enforcement.
But Harris-Moore, 20, wasn't totally without fans. Annie Cain and Hayley Hanna, both 18 and Langley residents, were first in line and hoping to get a seat in the courtroom — or just a glimpse of the internationally known outlaw.
"It's the biggest thing to hit Whidbey Island so we wanted to be here," Cain said.
"Right when we heard he would be here, we knew we were coming," Hanna said.
Characterizing themselves as "sympathizers" rather than fans, the pair said they wanted to get as close to Harris-Moore as they could in the hopes of giving him a wave or wink.
Others showed up specifically for the crowd rather than Harris-Moore.
Billy Brigham, a Coupeville resident, came with holiday wreaths stacked the length of his arms and advertised toward the line "Wreaths, $5, get your wreaths."
Brigham said he brought hundreds to the sentencing hearing thinking he could sell them to the hundreds of people rumored to be coming.
"We were expecting a lot of people," he said.
Brigham didn't make many sales. He was quickly confronted by a deputy sheriff who asked for his vendor's permit. Brigham admitted he didn't have one and took his wares elsewhere.
Law enforcement didn't know what kind of crowds to expect but weren't taking any chances. Preparing for an onslaught that could number in the hundreds, roads near the courthouse were closed and officers stood sentinel on street corners. Overflow seating was set up in the commissioner's hearing room and the court proceeding was broadcast live on the internet.
Coupeville business owners said Friday morning that they also had been hoping for a bigger turnout. Cindy Peterson owns Caffeine Effect, the little coffee shop located a block from the courthouse. She showed up at 5:30 a.m. banking on huge crowds.
"No one showed up until 8:30 a.m.," she said, with a shrug. "We're hoping for a lunch crowd."
Coupeville resident Al Tennant, who was at the coffee shop with a few friends, said the event was pretty anticlimactic. But it didn't turn out all bad, he said cheerily.
"What's good about this deal is that the last two or three days they've had all the prisoners cleaning up the yard in front of the jail," he said.