A federal judge in Seattle sentenced the "Barefoot Bandit" to the maximum six and a half years in prison for a string of thefts and burglaries after the 20-year-old bragged to friends in emails from jail that prosecutors were fools and he would emerge "unscathed."
"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 said in the courtroom. "I should have died years ago."
Judge Richard A. Jones on Friday also sentenced Harris-Moore, who pled guilty to 33 state and seven federal felony charges during his two years as a fugitive, to three years of probation. The federal sentence is to run concurrently with a seven-year state sentence, as part of a plea agreement. The maximum federal sentence was six and a half years, as negotiated by his attorneys.
In court, the judge asked Harris-Moore to speak to young people who may look up to him because of his exploits.
"I would say to younger people they should focus on their education, which is what I am doing right now," he said, the Associated Press reported. "I want to start a company. I want to make a difference in this world, legally."
The attorneys for the "Barefoot Bandit" said the emails disclosed this week in which he criticized police and prosecutors, were taken out of context and it was "not unusual" for the young man to be upset with authorities.
Harris-Moore pled guilty to charges of state theft and burglary in December after his two-year crime spree, including the thefts of two airplanes and a boat, as well as a string of break-ins. Prosecutors disclosed over a year's worth of emails on Tuesday ahead of his sentencing in U.S. District Court in Seattle.
In the emails, Harris-Moore called the Island County sheriff "king swine," and referred to prosecutors as "fools" and reporters as "vermins."
He also wrote to one friend, "I won't be out tomorrow but I have no doubt I will emerge unscathed back on track."
His attorney, Emma Scanlan, said prosecutors provided thousands of pages of emails and correspondence over the last 18 months, some of which were out of context and truncated. In a response filed on Thursday, Harris-Moore's defense states that the emails do not show a lack of remorse previously displayed. Harris-Moore wrote the state and federal judges presiding over his cases a lengthy six-page email in December, expressing his regret to victims and detailing his troubled past.
The defense said in the court filing that he was provisionally diagnosed with "Alcohol Related Neurodevelopmental Disorder and is extraordinarily suggestible."
"When you have someone diagnosed with fetal alcohol spectrum disorder and shows he will be grandiose, he will have limited ability to understand the consequenses of what he is saying," Scanlan told ABC News.
Scanlan said a doctor who has evaluated him extensively said people who have his profile and are affected by alcohol in the womb have exaggerated ideas about themselves.
"For lawyers to get those emails to his friends and compare them to a letter he wrote to the court and slaved over for months is underhanded," Scanlan said. "The fact that a 20-year old defendant is upset with police and prosecutors is not unusual and not related to his remorse to people he has hurt. You won't find anything about the victims [in the emails]. He feels bad about the people he has scared and lives he has changed."
Scanlan said Harris-Moore wants to go to college and be a pilot.
Harris-Moore is known as the "Barefoot Bandit" for allegedly not wearing shoes during some crimes, leaving bare footprints in the woods after landing a stolen airplane near Granite Falls, Wash. Everett newspaper, The Herald, reported. Officials say he did wear shoes most of the time, though authorities often name bandits with monikers so they are more easily identifiable.
Harris-Moore, who at least once drew bare feet at the scene of his crime, arrived barefoot in Nassau, Bahamas, on July 11, 2010, after he was arrested.
The Stanwood-Camano (Wash.) News was the first paper to refer to him as the "Barefoot Bandit" in 2007, according to Bob Friel, author of the upcoming book The Barefoot Bandit, out March 20. Friel is a resident of Orcas Island, where Harris-Moore committed some of his crimes. He wrote about the crime spree for Outside Magazine's January 2010 issue and followed him to the Bahamas, where he was captured. Friel said he finished writing the book in December, after the state's sentencing.
Friel said the emails released this week reflect a young man who wants to "look tough and brag" when talking to his friends.
Harris-Moore, who captured Hollywood's attention while he evaded authorites as a teenager, signed the movie rights to his life in August to 20th Century Fox.
Chris Petrikin, executive vice president of corporate communications with 20th Century Fox, said regardless of the sentencing, the development of the script is "moving forward." Dustin Lance Black, who received an Academy Award for Best Original Screenplay for "Milk" in 2009 and is a producer for HBO's "Big Love." is writing the script. Petrikin declined to discuss the terms of the deal, though if completed, the movie rights could be worth $1.3 million.
"It takes time to get it right and this story in particular is unfolding," Lance Rosen, the entertainment attorney who negotiated the deal, said.
Harris-Moore said he is relinquishing any profit from the movie for the victims of his crimes. Friel said a movie option was signed which usually entails a small initial payment while the bulk of the profit comes from the actual film.
About the emails disclosed this week, Rosen said the prosecutors "are picking and choosing a handful of statements and words from a 20-year old kid out of many hundreds of personal emails and phone calls that he had over the course of more than a year in jail."
"It's impossible for anyone, especially an active youth sitting in jail day after day to be mindful about every thought you have and every word you say, on a 24-7 basis," Rosen said. "Colton's remorse is real. Isolated thoughts and out of context remarks are good for prosecutors. The media embraces them. They make great sound bites, but sound bite melodrama has nothing to do with reality."