SEATTLE – Colton Harris-Moore, the youthful thief known as the "Barefoot Bandit," is being held in solitary confinement at a Washington state prison, a situation his lawyer calls absurd.
The 21-year-old has been placed in the intensive management unit at Walla Walla State Penitentiary, where convicts facing the death penalty are housed, the Department of Corrections confirmed Friday. Spokeswoman Selena Davis said it's standard to place high-profile inmates in such confinement for their own protection.
"You're there by yourself," Davis said. "No one can pose a threat to you."
His Seattle attorney, John Henry Browne, insisted Friday that Harris-Moore neither needs nor wants such protection. He noted that prior to being transferred to state prison, Harris-Moore was held at the Federal Detention Center at SeaTac, where he was in the general population.
Harris-Moore was sentenced in December to seven years in state prison for dozens of crimes, including burglary and identity theft, stemming from his sensational two-year run from the law in stolen boats, cars and airplanes. A self-taught pilot, he was finally apprehended in a hail of bullets in the Bahamas in 2010, after he crash-landed a plane stolen from an Indiana airport.
Harris-Moore has been in solitary confinement at Walla Walla since April 11, and he will remain there pending a final decision on his prison placement, expected in about seven weeks, Davis said. Harris-Moore is allowed out of his cell five times per week, for an hour each time, plus three 10-minute showers per week. He's allowed to have books, but no television or radio.
His Seattle lawyer, John Henry Browne, said Friday it's absurd that a nonviolent felon like Harris-Moore is being held in conditions akin to those of the worst killers, and he's concerned about Harris-Moore's mental health. Because Harris-Moore is allowed out of his cell only five times per week, he has at least once been locked up for 72 hours with no recreation time, Browne said.
"I'm worried about it, but he sounded OK on the phone today," Browne said. "I just don't know how much longer he can handle it."
Browne, who is also representing Staff Sgt. Robert Bales, accused of massacring 17 Afghan villagers in March, said he has asked state officials, including the governor's office, to intervene on Harris-Moore's behalf.