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March 22, 2013

Boeing worker mentors bandit

SEATAC, Wash. — Jonathan Standridge and Colton Harris-Moore made an odd couple as they sat together in the visiting room of a Washington state prison one day last spring.

Standridge, 57, is a project manager at Boeing, an aviation company. Harris-Moore, 21, is the “Barefoot Bandit,” a world-famous airplane thief who is serving a seven-year sentence after a run from the law in stolen boats, cars and planes.

As it turned out, they had a lot to discuss. Aerospace design. Books. And second chances.

“What have you heard about me?” Harris-Moore said, Standridge recalled.

“I’ve read all about the ‘Barefoot Bandit,”’ Standridge said. Harris-Moore replied: “That’s not who I am.”

Ever since, Standridge has returned to the prison in Aberdeen, a two-hour drive from his lakeside home in the Seattle suburb of SeaTac, at least once a month, hoping to have a positive influence on what has been a bleak, young life, and to repay a favor someone once did for him.

“This is a young man that is fully engaged in the rehabilitation process that we in society ask of those folks who are in our prison system,” said Standridge, who has tutored Harris-Moore in the airplane business and a lot more. The progress is threatened by new burglary and theft counts that could add to Harris-Moore’s sentence, he said.

Standridge was lining up other aviation specialists to meet with Harris-Moore when the prisoner was transferred last month to the Skagit County Jail. Prosecuting Attorney Rich Weyrich said he filed the charges because the plea agreement other prosecutors reached with Harris-Moore in 2011 was too lenient.

Harris-Moore grew up poor on Camano Island north of Seattle, raised by an alcoholic mother and a series of her felon boyfriends. He earned his first conviction at age 12, in 2004, for stolen property. After he walked away from a halfway house in 2008, he embarked on a two-year burglary spree, breaking into unoccupied vacation homes and stores, and stealing money and food.

Some of the crimes were committed barefoot, and by 2010, he had rocketed to international notoriety as he stole small airplanes in the Northwest, flew them with no formal training and landed them with various degrees of success.

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