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Colton Harris-Moore sentenced to 7 years 3 months

At an arraignment held December 16, 2011 at the Island County Courthouse in Coupeville, Washington, Colton Harris-Moore, age 20, of Camano Island, Washington, pleaded guilty to 17 felony counts of burglary and theft committed in San Juan County. Because the pleas were part of a plea agreement with Washington prosecutors, the court proceeded immediately to sentencing.

Island County Judge Vickie I. Churchill, sitting by special appointment as the San Juan County Superior Court Judge, sentenced Harris-Moore to 87 months in prison, the lowest of the standard range for the crime. The prosecutors had recommended the top end of the standard range which would have been 116 months. Both the sentence and the recommendation were based on concurrent sentences.

While Churchill cited his background, referring to it as a "triumph of the human spirit" she did emphasize that "a person's upbringing does not excuse crime. "We can recognize it does have some effect," she said.

Harris-Moore's mother is an alcoholic who drank heavily while pregnant with him. Harris-Moore started breaking into homes for food and clothing as a young child because she spent their welfare money on alcohol. His attempts to have authorities intervene were unsuccessful.

Churchill acknowledged the effect the crimes had on both Island and San Juan county residents. While noting he had not physically hurt anyone, she recognized he did leave people with fear.

Before the sentencing, the court heard from a psychiatrist who explained the effects of fetal alcohol syndrome. The defense team was asking for an exceptional sentence below the standard range. Churchill declined that request.

The morning started with the Harris-Moore pleading guilty to the Island County charges. He took an Alford plea on one of them. Such a plea means he wasn't pleading guilty but believed the court had a preponderance of evidence which meant it was likely a jury would find him guilty.

The Island County charges included five counts of residential burglary, two counts of identity theft in the second-degree, one count of identity theft in the first degree, one count of computer trespass, one count of eluding a pursuing police vehicle; three counts of burglary in the second-degree and one count of theft of a firearm.

San Juan County Prosecuting Attorney Randall Gaylord said San Juan County's charges included three counts of residential burglary, eight counts of burglary in the second degree and six counts of theft in the first degree. This PDF of the Statement on Plea of Guilty lists details of all the crimes.

"These charges followed the theft of three cabin-cruiser power boats, the theft of three single-engine airplanes, breaking into homes and businesses on Orcas Island and San Juan Island and stealing cash, food, shoes, clothing, camping gear and computer equipment and ordering goods to be delivered," explained Gaylord.

On the same day, Harris-Moore also pleaded guilty to 14 felony charges for crimes committed in Island County and one charge for burglary in the first degree committed in Snohomish County.

Harris-Moore was dubbed the "Barefoot Bandit" by sheriff deputies after they discovered that he committed some crimes in his bare feet to evade identification.

Gaylord said the arraignment and plea of all charges before a single judge in Coupeville was coordinated with three Washington State prosecutors and the U.S. Attorney in order to assure a prompt and efficient conclusion to the crime spree by Harris-Moore.

As part of the plea, state and federal prosecutors recommended to each court that Harris-Moore receive the maximum standard range sentence under the sentencing guidelines for each count to be served concurrent to the sentences in other state and federal courts, beginning at the time Harris-Moore turns 21 years old.

In addition, victims in San Juan County will be included in the federal court's forfeiture of assets and assignment of rights which will assure that Harris-Moore will not profit from his crimes. Under the federal forfeiture, all proceeds of the crimes including book and movie rights have been assigned to a special master for the benefit of crime victims, including the victims in San Juan County.

"Harris-Moore will not receive one penny for his crimes, and unlike victims of most serial burglars, someday, I expect San Juan County losses and damages will be paid."

"Under the federal restitution rules individual victims who are out of pocket losses will receive compensation with priority over insurance companies," said Gaylord. The losses and damages caused to the eighteen victims in San Juan County add up to about $300,000.

Judge Churchill awarded restitution in the amount of $292,002 and imposed other fines and penalties.

Gaylord said he would like to thank the members of the San Juan County Sheriff's Office, for their investigation and follow up on the crimes, the Washington State Crime Lab for their forensic work testing blood and fingerprint analysis, and all other state, federal and Bahaman authorities who were involved in the dragnets that led to the eventual apprehension of Harris-Moore in the Bahamas in July 2010.

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