SEATTLE — Lawyers for "Barefoot Bandit" Colton Harris-Moore are fighting back against the notion that he's not sorry for his infamous two-year crime spree of break-ins and boat and plane thefts that ended in 2010 in the Bahamas.
In a filing in federal court Thursday, defense attorneys said prosecutors released cherry-picked excerpts from emails in an effort to make him appear callous and self-aggrandizing. The 20-year-old called the Island County sheriff "king swine," called prosecutors "fools," and referred to reporters as "vermin." He also described his feats — stealing and flying planes with no formal training — "amazing" and said they were unmatched by anyone except the Wright brothers.
But his lawyers claim the full emails show that Harris-Moore is sorry for what he did and thankful for the treatment he received from a state who called his case a "triumph of the human spirit." The judge sentenced him last month to seven years, at the low end of the sentencing range.
The attorneys acknowledged that in certain instances he bragged, but they said those writings were simply the product of an impulsive adolescent and don't reflect his true remorse.
"I know what I did was wrong; I feel bad for the victims and will make things right ANY way I can; am ashamed of myself," he wrote Dec. 2 in one email.
Elsewhere, he reflected on his decision to sell his movie rights in a deal that is expected to repay his victims to the tune of more than $1.2 million.
"Yes, a movie will likely be made, though that was NEVER my goal, and I am still not happy about that because doing such a deal means that I release the details of what I feel are very private and personal experiences and memories," he wrote in an email last August. "Despite the way I feel about it, nobody forced or pressured me to sign the contract. And on top of that, what I want or don't like doesn't really matter. I feel a sense of responsibility to people on Camano Island and San Juans . they are the ONLY reason I did this."
The U.S. attorney's office said Thursday that it maintains that the excerpts it quoted in its sentencing memorandum this week were accurate and in context. Spokeswoman Emily Langlie noted that one of Harris-Moore's lawyers, John Henry Browne, vowed in a radio interview Wednesday to release the "full emails," but their court filing itself omitted certain statements that might reflect negatively on their client.
For example, the excerpt from the August email went on to say, "I have sacrificed and compromised more than anyone in all of this and I am still being attacked on the blogs!" — but that line was omitted, Langlie noted.
Harris-Moore was arrested in the Bahamas in summer 2010 when authorities shot out the motor of a boat he stole. He arrived in the Bahamas after making a daring cross-country dash in stolen boats and cars, stealing a plane in Indiana and crash-landing it off the Bahamas.
He pleaded guilty and last month and was sentenced for his state crimes. He is scheduled to be sentenced Friday for his federal crimes. Prosecutors are asking for a six-and-a-half year term to be served while he serves his state time. Harris-Moore's attorneys, Emma Scanlan and John Henry Browne, have requested a federal term of just under six years.
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