'Barefoot Bandit' Sentenced To More Than Six Years In Prison

Jan 30, 2012

A judge in U.S. District Court in Seattle sentenced Colton Harris-Moore, also known as the “Barefoot Bandit,” to six-and-a-half years in prison Friday. Speaking before the judge, Harris-Moore expressed remorse, said he’s lucky to be alive, and told other young people not to follow his example. KUOW’s Amy Radil reports.

Colton Harris-Moore was sentenced on seven federal counts including thefts of airplanes and weapons during his cross-country spree. He’s also been sentenced to more than seven years for state charges.

In federal court in Seattle, Harris-Moore apologized to his victims and expressed regret for his recent e-mail that called his flights on stolen airplanes “amazing.” He said the thefts and getaways that other young people may admire were in fact dangerous and terrifying.

Judge Richard Jones awarded the sentence prosecutors requested under a plea agreement, but stated that Harris-Moore should get credit for the 18 months he’s spent in federal detention already.

Harris-Moore’s lawyer John Henry Browne says donors have given thousands of dollars for his client to receive treatment and education while in prison. And Browne fully expects Harris-Moore to go on to pursue his passion for flying, maybe even getting “a PhD in aeronautics.”

“I mean if he was my kid or your kid he’d be at MIT by now,” he says.

While Harris-Moore never committed any acts of violence, his victims say they lived in fear after he invaded their homes. Kelly Kneifl says he and his family were returning to their home in Yankton, South Dakota late one night, when they surprised a naked Colton Harris-Moore inside. Kneifl says a chase ensued, and Harris-Moore said, “I’ve got a gun.”

That was a lie, but Kneifl says his children were afraid long after Harris-Moore had fled their town.

“It was well over a year before the kids -– the younger children –- were comfortable to come home, walk in the door, go downstairs and play with their toys or whatever without us checking it out first,” Kneifl says.

Judge Jones noted that Harris-Moore’s life has been greatly affected by his mother’s alcoholism, anger and neglect. But he also said the young man “terrorized” his community on Camano Island with repeated thefts and break-ins.

And he said Harris-Moore committed crimes to fulfill his “passion for flying at all costs.” His lawyers have requested that Harris-Moore serve his time at the Washington state prison in Monroe.

Copyright 2012 KUOW.