Barefoot Bandit sentenced: 'I should have died years ago'
Diffident and shy, the lanky youth known as the "Barefoot Bandit" made his first public statement since launching his 27-month crime spree, apologizing to his victims as a judge sentenced him to 6 1/2 years in prison for his audacious string of aircraft and expensive boat thefts.
"I'd like to first say that what I did could be called daring, but it is no stretch of the imagination to say that I'm lucky to be alive," Colton Harris-Moore, 20, said as he stood in jail-issued khakis in a federal courtroom.
"I should have died years ago," he said.
U.S. District Judge Richard A. Jones' sentence runs concurrently with an earlier 7 1/2-year sentence imposed by a state court in Washington for his crimes under state law. Those offenses included a series of burglaries and thefts that terrorized citizens in several states as the brazen fugitive kept two steps ahead of the law.
"My actions affected many people, and from a place of acceptance, humility and remorse I again apologize ... the day will come when things are made right," Harris-Moore said.
Defense lawyers repeated their plea for the court to take into consideration Harris-Moore's nightmarish childhood. He was forced to break into nearby homes to find food and clothing as a result of his mother's alcoholism, abuse and neglect.
"You're about to hear now from a young person whose first memory is being told that everybody's better off if he'd have been born dead," said defense attorney John Henry Brown as Harris-Moore made his way to the podium.
The judge said he was taking into account Harris-Moore's background -- to a degree.
"The record is clear that you had an incredibly difficult childhood," he said. "No one can change that, or give those years back to you. Your lawyers and evaluators say that your past is what made you do wrong. That may very well be true, but the reality is that you committed some very serious crimes that deserve punishment."
"We look at life in many cases as a card game. You have to accept the hand you're dealt," the judge said.
Prosecutors said Harris-Moore stole three planes and flew them without any formal flight training to crash landings as far away as the Bahamas. The federal charges also covered the theft of several firearms.
Prompted by the judge to share his advice to the thousands of admirers around the world who followed his exploits while on the lam, Harris-Moore downplayed the emails he has written from jail in which he described his aviation exploits as "amazing."
"I would say that the things I did some, I think, thought was perhaps cool, we're extremely dangerous and terrifying," he said. "It wasn't as if I just jumped in a plane barefoot and started flying around. I feared for my life in those situations."
-- Kim Murphy in Seattle
Photo: Colton Harris-Moore, known as the "Barefoot Bandit," in an undated FBI photo. Credit: HO/AFP/Getty Images