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Federal judge sentences 'Barefoot Bandit' to 6 1/2 years

A federal judge in Seattle has sentenced the "Barefoot Bandit" to 6 1/2 years in prison for his two-year, international crime spree of break-ins, and boat and plane thefts.
Image: Colton Harris-Moore
Colton Harris-Moore talks with one of his lawyers at his sentencing in Island Superior Court in Coupeville, Washington in this Dec. 16.Marcus Donner / Reuters file
/ Source: The Associated Press

A federal judge on Friday sentenced "Barefoot Bandit" Colton Harris-Moore to 6 1/2 years in prison for his infamous two-year, international crime spree of break-ins, and boat and plane thefts that ended in 2010.

Harris-Moore hopscotched his way across the United States, authorities said. He flew a plane stolen in northwestern Washington to the San Juan Islands, stole a pistol in British Columbia and took a plane from Idaho to Washington state, stole a boat in southwestern Washington to go to Oregon, and took a plane in Indiana and flew to the Bahamas, where was arrested.

He earned his nickname because he committed several of the crimes without wearing shoes.

Harris-Moore apologized to his victims shortly before U.S. Judge Richard Jones imposed the sentence, which will be served concurrently with state prison time.

"I now know a crime that took place overnight will take years to recover from," the 20-year-old said in court.

He particularly apologized for stealing planes, saying his arrogance led him to keep alive his dream of flying.

"What I did could be called daring, but it is no stretch of the imagination to say that am lucky to be alive ... absolutely lucky," he said. "I should have died years ago."

Before Friday's sentencing, defense attorneys said federal prosecutors released cherry-picked excerpts from emails in an effort to make Harris-Moore appear callous and self-aggrandizing.

He called the Island County sheriff "king swine," called prosecutors "fools," and referred to reporters as "vermin." He also described his feats — stealing and flying planes with no formal training — "amazing" and said they were unmatched by anyone except the Wright brothers.

But Harris-Moore's lawyers claim the full emails show that he is sorry for what he did and thankful for the treatment he received from a state judge who called his case a "triumph of the human spirit." The state judge sentenced him last month to seven years, at the low end of the sentencing range.

The attorneys acknowledged that in certain instances he bragged, but they said those writings were simply the product of an impulsive adolescent and don't reflect his true remorse.

In court Friday, the judge asked Harris-Moore to speak to young people who may look up to him because of his exploits.

"I would say to younger people they should focus on their education, which is what I am doing right now," he said. "I want to start a company. I want to make a difference in this world, legally."

Federal prosecutors had asked for Jones to impose a 6-1/2 year sentence to be served while Harris-Moore serves his state time. His attorneys had asked for a federal sentence of just under six years.

There will be another hearing in a month to decide how much restitution Harris-Moore will be required to pay.