Harboring a fugitive can lead to serious criminal charges, former US attorney says

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SALT LAKE CITY -- American fork police say a patrolman working the graveyard shift, spotted fugitive Thomas Burnham around 4 a.m. Monday in the parking lot at a Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints chapel.

Burnham had been on the run since he walked away from the Fortitude halfway house on Jan. 28.

Before Burnham was captured in American Fork, he met with Bobbie Jo Barber, who’s now facing charges of her own for harboring an escapee.

Former U.S. Attorney Brett Tolman said there are likely many other people like Barber out there.

“I think if you’re a fugitive it would be very difficult to stay a fugitive without the assistance of others,” Tolman said.

The Department of Corrections says right now they are investigating leads on approximately 187 fugitive case and since the department is under the microscope, Tolman believes it’s likely that law enforcement will start going after the people who are helping these fugitives avoid capture.

“I think they will be very aggressive. They also have the ability to utilize federal agencies,” Tolman said.

With the obstruction of justice statute, law enforcement can go after these men and women and if they’re helping violent offenders, the penalties can be extremely serious.

“You can be looking at a serious felony and serious jail time, just because you decided to not tell the police something that you knew,” Tolman said.

Tolman said the seriousness of the charges varies depending on the type of crime committed by the person you're helping and it can be aggravated if that person commits other crimes because of your help.

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