Seven-Year Sentence For Repeat Airplane Thief
Colton Harris-Moore, the teenager whose two-year crime spree included the theft of several airplanes -- which he taught himself to fly from manuals and videos -- was sentenced on Friday to serve seven years and three months in jail after pleading guilty to 33 counts of burglary and theft. Harris-Moore, now 20, was "pleased" with the sentence, according to his lawyer, John Henry Browne. "He was expecting the worst," Browne told The Associated Press. In a letter (PDF) to the judge, Harris-Moore apologized for his crimes and described the "euphoria" of his first flight, even though the weather was horrible. "My first thought after takeoff was 'Oh my God, I'm flying,'" he wrote. "I had waited my entire life for that moment." Harris-Moore flew the Cessna 182 stole from Orcas Island Airport in the dark into the teeth of a Northwest wind and rainstorm that grounded a lot of other aircraft and admitted he was lucky to survive. He eventually landed it hard near Yakima. He stole at least two more planes, a Cirrus SR22 and finally a Cessna Corvalis that he ditched in the Caribbean, where he was captured after police shot out the engine of a boat he'd stolen. He said he planned to use his prison time to study and he hopes to eventually go to college for aeronautical engineering.
Harris-Moore also wrote about the neglectful mother who raised him and said he wouldn't wish such a childhood on his "darkest enemies." Judge Vikki Churchill said considering Harris-Moore's background, raised with a "mind-numbing absence of hope," the outcome could have been worse. "This case is a tragedy in many ways, but it's a triumph of the human spirit in other ways," she said. Fox has reportedly bought the movie rights for more than $1 million, and a screenplay is in the works. Under the terms of his plea deal, Harris-Moore cannot keep any of that money. Prosecutor Greg Banks told the AP he was satisfied with the sentence.