Barefoot Bandit’s insults considered in federal sentence

Colton Harris-Moore - File photo
Colton Harris-Moore
— image credit: File photo

The Barefoot Bandit insulted the Island County sheriff, the prosecutor and members of the media in private while he publicly professed remorse and humility for his high-profile crime spree.

The revelations made by the U.S. Attorney’s Office in a sentencing memorandum appeared to have some effect on the sentence 20-year-old Colton Harris-Moore received by from a judge in federal court Friday, though his defense team tried to minimize the damage by releasing other  emails that showed Harris-Moore as contrite and modest.

The federal judge sentenced Harris-Moore to 6 1/2 years in prison for seven felony charges connected to his crime spree that included a bank burglary and airplane theft.

Under the plea bargain, the sentence will run concurrently with (at the same time as) the slightly longer sentence he received last month in Island County Superior Court. But it’s still bad news for Harris-Moore, since he’ll be able to earn much less “good time” in the federal system.

Island County Superior Court Judge Vickie Churchill sentenced Harris-Moore to seven years and three months in prison. Yet the judge said this week she may have sentenced Harris-Moore differently if she had known about the emails and phone calls, which he made both before and after the sentencing hearing in Island County.

“I am dismayed to learn the recent news about Colton Harris-Moore and his ridicule of the prosecutors and sheriff who were doing their job to protect the public,” Churchill said it a statement. “Likewise, I am dismayed to hear that Mr. Harris-Moore has allegedly bragged about his exploits. Naturally, this would have been important information to have when he was sentenced and would have affected his sentence.

“The information that I had was that Mr. Harris-Moore was truly contrite for the fear and for the property damage he caused his victims. His willingness to totally repay his victims for their monetary damage by subjecting himself to the scrutiny of the media, combined with his remorse, led me to hand down the sentence I did.

“It is my hope that Mr. Harris-Moore will realize that his actions are not something to brag about and that the prosecutors and sheriff deserve respect for the vital job they do in protecting the public.  Most of all, I hope that Mr. Harris-Moore will grow up, because his bragging and ridicule are the hallmarks of an immature person,” Judge Churchill stated.

The U.S. Attorney’s Office in Seattle included the excerpts of emails and phone calls in a sentencing memorandum filed this week, which quickly became national news.

“There are good reasons to question whether Mr. Harris-Moore’s public expressions of remorse and acceptance of responsibility are entirely genuine,” the memorandum states. “Many of his private statements take a tone that is quite different from his Letter to the Court.”

According to the court document, Harris-Moore called Sheriff Mark Brown “the king swine  himself” in a Dec. 9 telephone call, apparently to his mother. In a Dec. 25 email, Harris-Moore referred to Prosecutor Greg Banks as “unethical” and wrote that Banks and another prosecutor “looked like complete fools and asses.”

Brown said he didn’t take the comment personally, even though friends from around the country have teased him about it. He said it’s common for people involved in criminal activities to be resentful towards those who arrest or prosecute them.

Banks said the emails were an insight into Harris-Moore’s true character.

“They show how Harris-Moore really sees the justice system and his crime spree,” Banks wrote in an email.

The private comments seem to contradict the poignant letter Harris-Moore wrote to Churchill, as well as the defense attorney’s description of his tough upbringing, his modesty and his regret for harming others.

His defense attorneys responded to the state’s memorandum in a document that details many other emails that weren’t included in the government’s argument. Harris-Moore, who was diagnosed with fetal alcohol syndrome, is a “suggestible and naive adolescent venting to his friends,” the document states.

The document shows a stream of emails in which Harris-Moore adopts a friend’s snide viewpoint about the judge’s actions, writes an email mimicking his friend, but soon afterward returns to his own more gracious point of view.

Under the plea bargain, Harris-Moore agreed to work with a studio that will make a movie out of his two-year crime spree in which he stole airplanes and boats, burglarized homes and businesses — occasionally while barefoot — and evaded law enforcement. The $1.3 million payment from the movie studio will go the victims.






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