With Colton Harris-Moore purportedly prepared to plead guilty to numerous criminal charges, federal prosecutors have taken the rare step of trying to prevent the so-called “Barefoot Bandit” from cashing in on his story.
In an indictment filed this week in U.S. District Court in Seattle, prosecutors assert the 20-year-old should be required to forfeit “any profits or proceeds received in connection with any publication or dissemination of information” relating to his alleged crime spree. The same indictment also charged Harris-Moore with a new crime: a September 2009 bank burglary on Orcas Island.
Movie and book deals already have been discussed with Harris-Moore, who gained international notoriety during an alleged crime spree, which reportedly included teaching himself to fly so he could take private planes, before being captured in the Bahamas last year, his lawyer John Henry Browne said on Friday.
Federal prosecutors called Harris-Moore’s story “intellectual property.”
Browne said that his client already has agreed to turn over any money he might earn from his exploits to pay $1.3 million prosecutors say he owes in restitution.
Harris-Moore, he said, wants to give any other money generated to charity.
“Everything is already agreed to. Colton does not and did not want a dime and thinks it’s wrong to benefit from this,” Browne said.
Browne added that his client has a separate lawyer to address possible media offers, and said that Harris-Moore is hoping to generate funds from his story to pay the hefty restitution.
Browne said he has heard of the government seizing drugs or actual property, but has never heard of ordering a defendant to forfeit any earnings from telling their story.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Darwin Roberts said in an email Friday that his office views the forfeiture language in the indictment “as proper and consistent with applicable law.”
Harris-Moore is facing federal charges 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 certificate, interstate transportation of a stolen vessel, as well as the bank burglary.
If the case goes to trial and he is convicted, he could face up to 10 years in prison and a $250,000 fine.
Harris-Moore also faces more than two dozen state charges in Island and San Juan counties.
His alleged crime spree began in Island County shortly after he escaped from a Renton halfway house in April 2008.
Police dubbed him the “Barefoot Bandit” because bare footprints were found at several scenes where he’s suspected of committing crimes.
In the San Juan Islands, chalk-outlined feet were found on the floor of a burglarized grocery.
For nearly two years, Harris-Moore evaded capture while committing a string of break-ins and thefts, according to law enforcement.
He allegedly stole several aircraft, including a Cessna taken in Idaho in September 2009 that crashed near Granite Falls. He is also accused of stealing a plane in Indiana and crash-landing it July 4 in the Bahamas, where he was captured a week later after a high-speed boat chase off Eleuthera, a sparsely populated tourist island where he was accused in a string of burglaries.
Harris-Moore pleaded guilty to a minor charge in the Bahamas and paid a $300 fine before being flown back to the U.S.
Browne would not go into specifics about the pending plea agreement, but said the U.S. District Court case will encompass the federal charges as well as charges stemming from alleged crimes in Oregon, Idaho, Wyoming, South Dakota, Nebraska, Iowa, Illinois and Indiana.
Browne said all of the charges generated in Washington state will be wrapped up in Island County’s case.
“We’re trying to consolidate 25 to 30 jurisdictions and around 50 crimes,” Browne said on Friday.
Last month, Robert, the assistant U.S. attorney, said prosecutors have made “meaningful and productive” progress in negotiations that could lead to a plea bargain.