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Lawmaker doesn’t want families helping suspects

MILWAUKEE (AP) – At least one Wisconsin lawmaker wants to make it a felony for anyone – including family members – to help or hide a fugitive or destroy evidence in cases of the most serious crimes.

About a dozen other states have exceptions for family harboring relatives, but Wisconsin law exempts more relatives and permits them to do more to thwart law enforcement, according to Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.

Sen. Luther Olsen, R-Ripon, is circulating a draft of a bill that targets those helping anyone who commits a serious felony. The punishment ranges from 18 months to five years in prison, and the bill eliminates the current exception for the felon’s spouse, parents, grandparents, children, grandchildren, brothers and sisters.

Shirley George, who lives in the Waupaca area, has been pushing for the change since 2000, after her grandson Joey was murdered outside of a bar in Oak Creek, mistaken for another man. Those charged included the son of then-Milwaukee police union President Bradley DeBraska. The suspects were helped by friends and family.

“I am not trying to have something monumental. It’s just common sense so another family doesn’t have to go through what we did,” said George, who calls the measure “Joey’s Law.”

Different versions of the bill have repeatedly failed in past sessions.

In the 2012 version, a sticking point was whether to create an exception for a domestic violence victim. As the bill was originally written, a domestic violence victim could not be charged with aiding a fugitive if the fugitive earlier had been convicted of domestic violence.

The current version being circulated has no exception for domestic violence victims.

The period to add co-sponsors ends July 16. It’s unclear which committee will take the bill once it is introduced. A hearing is possible later this summer.

Information from: Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, http://www.jsonline.com

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