America's favorite folk hero/criminal, Colton Harris-Moore, aka the "Barefoot Bandit," is about to plead guilty to a variety of federal and local charges, according to documents filed yesterday in Western Washington federal court. A joint motion by federal prosecutors and Harris-Moore's attorney says the parties are engaged in "meaningful and productive" plea negotiations that "may potentially resolve this case." The document also says that the number of charges, victims, and jurisdictions involved are complicating the plea process, suggesting that Harris-Moore's international exploits continue to exasperate the authorities even while he remains locked up in the federal detention center in SeaTac.
The crimes all (allegedly) occurred over a two-year period that begin in April 2008, when Harris-Moore escaped from a group home for juvenile offenders in Renton, where he was serving a sentence for three felony convictions. What happened next became the stuff of legend. The Camano Island native (allegedly) committed a string of minor burglaries, stealing boats and airplanes around the Northwest, eventually making his way to the Bahamas, where he was caught by the FBI after a high-speed boat chase. Along the way Harris-Moore earned his nickname by intentionally leaving footprints at various crime scenes.
(And that's just the Cliffs Notes version. The full tale, recounted in a Seattle Weekly feature story in 2009, is infinitely more colorful, strange, and sad, considering Harris-Moore's troubled upbringing.)
Linwood E. Smith, the FBI agent charged with tracking down Harris-Moore, writes in one court document (viewable in full below) that the 20-year-old Harris-Moore is the primary suspect in 65 investigations in Washington, Idaho, and British Columbia.
The motion filed yesterday--first reported by the Everett Herald--suggests that as many as 17 local, state, and federal jurisdictions are collaborating on the plea agreement:
The parties are currently involved in settlement negotiations that may potentially resolve this case, the pending cases in Snohomish, Skagit, Island, and San Juan counties, and matters in other jurisdictions. The negotiations have been meaningful and productive. Ultimately, because the number of jurisdictions, charges, and victims involved, additional time will be required before any agreement can be finalized.
The judge set a new deadline of April 29 for prosecutors and the defense to reach a deal. If all goes well, perhaps Harris-Moore will be out of prison in time to attend the premiere of the documentary film about his epic crime spree.