Colton Harris-Moore pleads not guilty

Colton Harris-Moore in Nassau.  - AP photo
Colton Harris-Moore in Nassau.
— image credit: AP photo

Colton Harris-Moore has pleaded not guilty to five criminal charges levied by a federal grand jury.

“When someone is initially arraigned, it is quite standard that they plead not guilty,” said Emilie Langlie, public affairs officer for United States Attorney Jenny Durkan. “It would be quite unusual for someone to plead guilty at that point.”

Harris-Moore’s trial is scheduled for Jan. 18. At this point it’s unknown whether he’ll end up facing the music in the San Juan County courthouse.

“The federal case will proceed first,” said Langlie. “Then the counties would determine which [county] would go next. … If he’s convicted, he would then be given a sentence in federal custody, but during that time he’s serving he would move to San Juan county, [for example].”

Langlie said she didn’t know which county would get first dibs, saying, “It is up to the county to file a writ to bring him to San Juan County to face charges.”

Harris-Moore has been accused of committing crimes in several Washington counties as well as Oregon, Idaho, Wyoming, South Dakota, Nebraska, Iowa, Illinois and Indiana. Each of four federal charges he’s currently facing could earn him 10 years in prison and a $250,000 fine.

Island County Prosecutor Greg Banks told the Sounder he hopes Harris-Moore will stand trial next in Island County on at least 10 charges.

“Our charges are the oldest,” he said. “He’s still considered a fugitive from our county; we have an outstanding warrant for his arrest ... I consider that [the federal jury] charged him in addition to our charges (filed in 2008).”

Banks said convictions on Island County charges alone could carry a sentence of four to five years.

“He wasn’t a worldwide celebrity when we charged him, he was just a serial burglar that we’ve seen before,” Banks said.

According to a Nov. 18 Associated Press article, Harris-Moore’s lawyer John Henry Browne is working with prosecutors on a plea deal that could involve using book or movie deal profits to compensate victims, potentially reducing the teen’s sentence; the deal also may involve resolving both federal and state charges against Harris-Moore.

In a video posted by the Seattle Times, Browne said that if Island and San Juan counties insisted on going to trial, “they will go bankrupt if they have trials up there.”

“They have budgeted $1,500 in Island County for the year in jury fees,” Browne said. “I’ll bankrupt them. That’s fine with me.”

Banks said he’s still waiting to hear from Browne personally.

“I don’t have any incentive or plans to consolidate anything,” said Banks. “I haven’t heard from him.”

Regarding consolidation, “I don’t see that as really likely,” Banks said. “Federal courts don’t really have jurisdiction over the kinds of charges we have pending in Island County.”

At the same time, Banks is hoping Harris-Moore will avoid multiple county-level trials.

“I’m hoping we can ... not ship the poor guy around the country and just bring him here,” he said.

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