• Teen criminal or cult figure?

    Date: 04.30.10 | by Judge Tom.

    When Colton Harris-Moore was 8-years-old, he was accused of stealing a bicycle. Since then he has accumulated a string of home burglaries and thefts. Now, at 19, the 6 foot 5 inch boy from Washington is referred to as America’s most wanted teenage bandit.

    Colton is a survivalist and often breaks into homes in the Pacific Northwest  to shower and eat. In one house he logged on to the computer and, using the homeowner’s credit card information, ordered bear mace and night vision goggles. He is suspected of nearly 100 burglaries in Washington, Idaho and Canada, and has moved on to speedboats and airplanes. Self-taught through flight manuals and handbooks, he is believed to have taken four airplanes and later crash-landed them, escaping each time.  Local law enforcement, the Royal Canadian Mounted Police and the FBI are after Colton.

    Colton Harris-Moore

    In a recent escapade, he stole a police car and assault rifle. This earned him law enforcement’s “armed and dangerous” classification, stepping up the search for him. Colton has been referred to as the “Barefoot Bandit” because he once took off his shoes to flee from the police through the woods. He has a growing presence on Facebook, with fans numbering in the thousands. Recently, Twentieth Century Fox purchased the rights to his story for a future film.

    Update:  In July, 2010, Colton was believed to be in the Bahamas.  He reportedly crashed another plane and disappeared.  Then on Sunday, July 11, 2010, Colton was captured.  He remains in police custody in Nassau, the capital of the Bahamas.  He is expected to be returned to the U.S. to face numerous charges, but not until charges against him in the Bahamas are resolved.  On July 12, 2010, Colton plead guilty to illegal entry into the Bahamas.  It carried a $300.00 fine which the U.S. Embassy agreed to pay in order to expedite his return to the U.S. to face as many as 80 charges in nine states and Canada from his two-year escapade.

    Update 2011:  In June, 2011, Colton appeared in federal court after reaching a plea agreement with the government. He agreed to forfeit any profits and story rights from his crimes. Restitution to his victims is approximately $1.4 million. He also faces up to 6 1/2 years in prison when he is sentenced. Over 40 charges in state court remain to be resolved and are expected to handled before sentencing in federal court.

    On December 16, 2011, Colton appeared in Island County Court in Washington and pleaded guilty to 16 counts ranging from identity theft to residential burglary and theft of firearms. He had already pled guilty in San Juan County Court to 17 counts of similar charges. The state is requested imprisonment for 9 1/2 years while Colton’s defense argued for a six-year sentence on all charges to run concurrently with the federal charges. Colton was sentenced to serve seven years in prison. His childhood was taken into consideration as well as his criminal history starting at age 12, and his hopeless upbringing as the judge called it. On January 27, 2012, Colton was sentenced in federal court to 6.5 years in prison to be served concurrently with his state sentences.

    Colton, age 20 in jail jumpsuit

    Do you think these escapades are admirable? Although a subject of interest, would you join his fan club and cheer him on? If you would, what if your family became one of his targets? Some have rationalized his deeds because some of his victims are wealthy and live in expensive homes. Should this make a difference in justifying Colton’s behavior? What do you think about the million-plus dollars he owes his victims? Do you think it’s fair that he’ll never be able to make any money from selling the story of his escapades?

    Judge Tom

    This post was written by Judge Tom. Judge Tom is the founder and moderator of AsktheJudge.info. He is a retired juvenile judge and spent 23 years on the bench. He has written several books for lawyers and judges as well as teens and parents including the recently published 'Teen Cyberbullying Investigated' (Free Spirit Publishing). When he's not answering teens' questions, Judge Tom can be found hiking, traveling and reading.

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