"Barefoot Bandit": Can Colton Harris-Moore and His Mother be Prevented from Profiting?
Can you say "Summer Blockbuster"?
But, if prosecutors have their way, neither Harris-Moore nor his mother will be reaping profits from any movie or book deal. Instead, they could try to have the 19-year-old and his mother agree to relinquish any profits from such business ventures. In exchange, Harris-Moore could avoid a long prison sentence.
So, who would get paid from Harris-Moore's story?
The government may look to use the money to pay back his alleged victims.
"Most victims in this case would not look kindly on either the defendant or his family getting rich," said Mark Bartlett, former first assistant U.S. attorney in Seattle. "It would be very difficult for him to make a pitch for leniency without a clean and total disgorgement of profits he or his family members are making."
Harris-Moore is suspected in a nearly two-year crime binge that spanned at least eight states, Canada, and the Bahamas. He is accused of burglarizing homes, stealing cars, powerboats and at least five planes, before authorities caught up with the elusive teen July 11 following a high-speed boat chase.
Some prosecutors and a defense attorney who was asked to represent the gangly suspect have voiced interest in negotiating a "global" plea deal to settle all or most of the allegations against Harris-Moore.
This "global" plea would be more effective than prosecuting Harris-Moore in various jurisdictions; however the plea deal may not appease local, elected prosecutors who have dealt with the teen the longest.
The U.S. attorney's office could recommend leniency in exchange for Harris-Moore handing over the profits from any movie or book deals to victims. It's not likely that prosecutors will offer such leniency unless Harris-Moore's mother, Pam Kohler, also agrees to give up any profits, said Bartlett.
The federal government and several states, including Washington, do have "Son of Sam" laws, which prevent criminals from profiting off crimes when a victim is physically harmed or killed. However, there are no allegations that Harris-Moore physically hurt anyone. This means that a plea deal could be the only way to keep him from cashing in on his story, through court-ordered compensation to victims.
Mary Fan, a former federal prosecutor in San Diego who teaches at the University of Washington Law School said, "The government has a strong interest in deterring others from trying to grab public attention by committing crimes. If the Barefoot Bandit makes a million bucks from committing a bunch of crimes, what's to prevent other kids from saying, 'I want to be just like him'?"
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