SEATTLE — Colton Harris-Moore is playing catch-up on life.
Nearly a decade ago, the law caught up with the teenager from Camano Island after a prolific crime spree that ended in the Bahamas after five plane thefts and escapes on foot, sometimes without shoes. His exploits earned him notoriety as “the Barefoot Bandit” — and 6½ years in prison.
At 28, Harris-Moore says he’s turned his life around. He’s whittled down much of his $1.3 million in restitution payments. He says there’s just one thing holding him back: his remaining five months of supervised release. He wrote earlier this month to U.S. District Court Judge Richard A. Jones, asking to shorten his sentence.
“I have learned from my past; I do not run from it, but instead try to embrace it for the better,” Harris-Moore said. “I hope to serve as a model for people who have hard lives and whom feel hopeless. I saw it every day when I was confined, and I have seen it in the world upon release.”
The court could consider the request Friday.
Described as bright and creative, Harris-Moore had a troubled childhood and behavior problems in school. He had his first felony conviction by age 12. He made headlines in 2007 for a series of break-ins on Camano Island and in neighboring Stanwood after evading capture for months by hiding in the woods and seeking shelter in empty vacation homes. He later escaped from a group home while serving a three-year sentence for burglary.
Things escalated from there.
In 2009, he was implicated in dozens more burglaries in the San Juan Islands, along with boat and airplane thefts.
By mid-2010, he had left Washington state, leaving a trail of stolen cars and home break-ins as he moved eastward. On July 3 of that year, a Cessna 400 plane was stolen from a locked hangar at the Monroe County Airport in Bloomington, Indiana. The plane turned up crashed off the Abaco Islands in the Bahamas, about 1,200 miles away. The Royal Bahamas Police Force arrested Harris-Moore a week later.
In early 2012, Jones, the judge, handed down his federal sentence, which Harris-Moore served concurrently with his punishment for state crimes.
Harris-Moore said he’s a different person now.
“I do not do drugs, I do not drink alcohol, I do not associate with any criminals, I have zero risk of recidivism, and I have not committed a single crime since 2010,” he wrote in his April 14 letter to the court.
Much of the progress toward restitution came courtesy of Hollywood. The movie studio 20th Century Fox paid more than $1 million in exchange for the rights to Harris-Moore’s story.
Harris-Moore said his remaining restitution will soon be less than $100,000.
He’s eager to launch a public speaking career, which he figures could earn at least $10,000 per appearance “at the low end.” That’s impossible without being able to travel at will.
“Had I been able to effectively explore this opportunity, which requires absolutely fluid domestic and international travel, and assuming I was able to do this for the past 2.5 years, I would have earned around $600,000 net,” Harris-Moore said.
The restriction has apparently interfered with his social life, as well.
“I have not been able to visit friends in London, France, China, or Korea,” he wrote. “Of several examples, I recently had to decline a friend’s wedding in Bali, as well as a birthday and New Year celebration in Lake Chelan, Washington. I am essentially wholly confined to western Washington State, and it has a significant impact to my quality of life.”
Harris-Moore’s missive is accompanied by several letters of support. They include warm words from family friends, conservative Seattle radio host Jason Rantz Antebi of the “Jason Rantz Show” and a man who says he owned the airplane that the Barefoot Bandit crashed in the Bahamas.