Colton Harris-Moore, the Barefoot Bandit, is scheduled to plead guilty to more than 30 state charges on Friday, Dec. 16, at the Island County Law & Justice Center in Coupeville on Whidbey Island. He will be sentenced at the same appearance, with Island County Superior Court Judge Vickie Churchill presiding.
Some of the paperwork on Harris-Moore's plea still will not be filed until Friday morning, but the charges are expected to be broken down as follows:
- 16 from Island and Snohomish Counties that will be filed by the Island County Prosecutor (14 from Island County and 2 from Snohomish County)
- 17 from San Juan County
- (Skagit County has dismissed its charges against Harris-Moore and is not participating in the Dec. 16 proceeding.)
For all of these charges, Harris-Moore faces a maximum sentence of just under 10 years under state law. Except in rare circumstances, both state and federal law call for sentences on multiple crimes handled under the same proceedings to be served concurrently. In other words, the longest sentence ends up setting the bar for the maximum term. In this case, the most serious crime Harris-Moore will be charged with is a first-degree burglary related to a break in at a home near Granite Falls in October 2009.
The standard range for a sentence under state sentencing guidelines for the state crimes is 87-116 months (7.25 years to 9.6 years). The county prosecutors will recommend that Harris-Moore be given the maximum sentence of 9.6 years on the state charges. The defense will be recommending an exceptional sentence (below the standard range) of 72 months (6 years). The defense believes the issues raised in the psychologist's report about Harris-Moore's childhood and upbringing justify the lower sentence.
The sentencing judge is not bound by the recommendations, but can only go above or below the standard range if there is sufficient proof that a different sentence is warranted.
At the plea and sentencing hearing, the prosecutors will outline the charges; Harris-Moore will enter a plea to each one; the prosecutors will explain why they believe the judge should impose their recommended sentence, while the defense will similarly explain their recommended sentence; and the victims of the crimes charged will be given a chance to speak.
Harris-Moore has already written a six-page letter to the sentencing judges in both the federal and state proceedings talking about his childhood, what he did, why he did it and accepting responsibility for his actions and apologizing for them. He will also be given a chance to speak at Friday's hearing before the judge announces the final sentence.
The federal case involves a separate set of charges. Harris-Moore is currently set to be sentenced by U.S. District Court Judge Richard Jones at the federal courthouse in Seattle on January 27, 2012. That date has been delayed since Harris-Moore pleaded guilty to the federal charges back in June; under the federal plea agreement, the federal sentencing must take place after the state sentencing.
As outlined by the U.S. Attorney last June, Harris-Moore pleaded guilty to bank burglary, two counts of interstate transportation of a stolen aircraft, interstate and foreign transportation of a stolen firearm, being a fugitive in possession of a firearm, piloting an aircraft without a valid airman's certificate, and interstate transportation of a stolen vessel.
Under the federal plea agreement, both the prosecution and defense agreed to recommend a sentence of 63 months to 78 months (5.25 to 6.5 years). Again, Judge Jones is not bound by the recommendations.
The final sentences Harris-Moore receives in federal and state court will also be served concurrently. But here is where things get a bit technical: normally, when someone is sentenced, they get credit for time served for the time they spend in custody awaiting trial or other proceedings. But in this case, the state is requesting that Harris-Moore not receive credit for any time served in federal custody until after a state sentence is in place or until he turns 21 in March 2012, whichever comes later.
Finally, the defense is recommending that Harris-Moore's time be served in a state corrections facility, rather than a federal facility, because the state's formula for calculating credit for good time (what is sometime referred to as time off for good behavior while in prison) is more favorable to him than the federal rule, meaning he could potentially be released sooner from a state facility if he obeys all the rules while in prison.
Reporting by KING 5's Ed White