By Steve Guntli
A major motion picture studio has stepped in to help a notorious Washington criminal known as the Barefoot Bandit.
Colton Harris-Moore, 24, of Camano Island made headlines around the world for embarking on an international crime spree when he was still a teenager. After his capture and conviction, the court ordered Harris-Moore to repay the more than $1.3 million in damages he caused during his two-year spree.
Last week, movie studio 20th Century Fox assumed Harris-Moore’s debts, in exchange for his life rights for a movie about him. The studio sent a check for $900,000 to the U.S. Marshal’s Service in November. Harris-Moore has already paid $216,000 of the debt with help from his large community of fans and followers. Officials believe Fox will be paying the remainder of Harris-Moore’s debt after the details of the film deal fall into place.
A teenager fleeing from an abusive home, Harris-Moore is suspected of committing more than 100 thefts and burglaries, mostly in Washington, Idaho and parts of Canada. In the early stages, authorities said he would break into homes to use the shower and steal items necessary to survive in the woods.
As his spree continued, he developed a taste for more expensive luxury items, especially vehicles. He was eventually charged with stealing multiple bicycles, cars, speedboats and airplanes, which he learned to fly with instructions from a manual and flight simulator video games.
He earned the nickname the “Barefoot Bandit” after committing some of his crimes shoeless, and for leaving a chalk outline of his bare feet at the scene of one of his crimes.
Harris-Moore’s flight from the law ended in May 2010 after a boat chase in the Bahamas. The Bandit had flown to Nassau in a stolen airplane and later attempted to flee authorities in a stolen speedboat. Police shot out the boat’s engine and brought Harris-Moore into custody. In 2012, he was sentenced to 6.5 years in prison. He is currently serving his sentence at the Stafford Creek Corrections Center in Aberdeen.
Harris-Moore’s crimes made him something of a cult figure, earning him a large Internet following. At the peak of his popularity, he had more than 60,000 Facebook followers, as well as numerous fan sites and message boards dedicated to following his exploits.
In 2012, Bob Friel published the bestselling book “The Barefoot Bandit: The True Tale of Colton Harris-Moore, New American Outlaw,” which Fox optioned as a movie.
Details are sparse on the Barefoot Bandit movie, but The Hollywood Reporter notes Oscar-winning screenwriter Dustin Lance Black (“Milk”) is working with Harris-Moore on the screenplay.
The question of whether Harris-Moore can profit off the film is still open. Washington is one of 34 states to have enacted “Son of Sam” laws, named after the famous serial murderer from New York City, which prevent criminals from profiting from their crimes.
However, exceptions to these laws have been made in cases where the victims of the crimes were not killed or injured. The most notable exception was in 2000, when the court ruled Burien schoolteacher Mary Kay Letourneau could profit from books and movies made about her story.
Letourneau made headlines in the mid-90s when she was arrested for having sex with a 14-year-old student who she later married after he came of age.