SPRINGFIELD — Prosecutors would be able to charge family members who help fugitives flee from justice under legislation the Illinois Senate passed overwhelmingly Wednesday.
Inspired by the findings of the Tribune series "Fugitives From Justice," the bill is aimed at closing a loophole in state law that gives family members a pass if they help fugitives flee. Illinois is one of only 14 states that exempts close relatives from prosecution if they help fugitives elude the law.
The bill would apply only to relatives at least 18 years old and intentionally working to prevent a fugitive's arrest or help him in fleeing the jurisdiction of the offense. The Senate sent the bill to the House on a 52-0 vote.
Sen. Ira Silverstein, D-Chicago, said he sponsored the legislation in response to news stories that illustrated how the loophole in the criminal justice system has allowed fugitives to skip the country after committing serious felonies.
For example, the paper detailed the case of Muaz Haffar, whose father bought a plane ticket so Haffar could flee to Syria after a 2005 charge that he killed student Tombol Malik, 23, according to law enforcement sources. Dr. Nabil Haffar, Haffar's father, has denied buying the plane ticket. Records and interviews show authorities believe Muaz Haffar is still at large in Syria.
In November, U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Ill., urged Illinois to pass the state legislation. He has also proposed changes to federal measures to help capture the growing numbers of criminal suspects who flee the United States after being charged with violent felonies.