Lying to Police Results in Felony Obstruction of Justice Charges

A Utah woman arrested for felony obstruction of justice for initially lying to police about teens’ deaths in Utah.

Lying to police

Photo by: Carmello Fernando

34 year old Morgan Reannon Henderson of Mammoth, Utah was arrested on felony charges of obstruction of justice after she finally released information regarding two Utah teens who had been missing for nearly three months. Henderson was questioned twice early on in the investigation of the teen’s disappearance but was dishonest in her response to investigators. It wasn’t until Henderson was arrested for drugs and weapon charges that she told the truth about the night the teens went missing. The whereabouts of 17 year old “Breezy” Otteson and 18 year old Riley Powell remained unknown to the teens’ families or authorities until Henderson eventually told police her live in boyfriend, Jerrod William Baum was responsible for the death of both teens. She then led them to the location of the bodies and Baum was arrested for aggravated murder.

Obstruction of Justice

Henderson admitted to police that the teens had been at her when Baum became upset at the visitors and tied them up. She saw Baum kill the teens before dumping their bodies in an abandoned mine. She then assisted Baum in hiding their vehicle while he also stashed their personal belongings. Utah Code 76-8-306 states: “An actor commits obstruction of justice if the actor, with intent to hinder, delay, or prevent the investigation, apprehension, prosecution, conviction, or punishment of any person regarding conduct that constitutes a criminal offense:

(a)provides any person with a weapon;
(b) prevents by force, intimidation, or deception, any person from performing any act that might aid in the discovery, apprehension, prosecution, conviction, or punishment of any person;
(c) alters, destroys, conceals, or removes any item or other thing;
(d) makes, presents, or uses any item or thing known by the actor to be false;
(e) harbors or conceals a person;
(f) provides a person with transportation, disguise, or other means of avoiding discovery or apprehension;
(g) warns any person of impending discovery or apprehension;
(h) warns any person of an order authorizing the interception of wire communications or of a pending application for an order authorizing the interception of wire communications;
(i) conceals information that is not privileged and that concerns the offense, after a judge or magistrate has ordered the actor to provide the information; or
(j) provides false information regarding a suspect, a witness, the conduct constituting an offense, or any other material aspect of the investigation.”

Since Henderson helped dispose of evidence and withheld information that would have led to the arrest of her boyfriend and recovery of the two teens, she was charged with two counts of obstruction of justice. Section 76-8-306 goes on to note that “Obstruction of justice is a second degree felony if the conduct which constitutes an offense would be a capital felony or first degree felony [such as murder]”. Each second degree felony is punishable by one to 15 years in prison.

A fearful choice?

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Although Henderson should have been upfront with authorities during her initial questioning, there is a possibility she chose to lie out of fear for her own safety. Baum had allegedly killed the teens to punish Henderson for allowing another male in the house while Baum was gone. If Baum was capable of such a heinous act, it would be reasonable to assume Henderson may be terrified to speak out against him. The fact that he threatened her life would have cemented that fear of telling the truth. It wasn’t until she was safe behind bars for another crime that she might have felt safe enough to share the truth. For that reason, lying to police or otherwise obstructing justice would have seemed the only choice to guarantee she was protected from harm. For those who are facing charges stemming from fear of domestic violence, contact a reputable criminal defense attorney. Those living in a situation where they are fearful for their safety or the safety of their family members are encouraged to call The National Domestic Violence at 1-800-799-7233.

Three Utah Women Arrested For Felony Obstruction of Justice for Helping Fugitive Evade Police

A manhunt in Herriman finally ended with the arrest of the fugitive as well as felony obstruction of justice charges for three Utah women who helped him evade police custody.

Police manhunt

Photo by: Tiocfaidh ár lá 1916

In late January startled residents of the town of Herriman, Utah were told to shelter in place and local schools were put on lockdown as police attempted to locate a 33 year old man who had shot at police, broke into a home, shot the homeowner, and then got away in a stolen vehicle. Justin Gary Llewelyn was eventually caught five days later after another police chase successfully ended with a dramatic PIT maneuver from an pursuing officer.

Help from family

Llewelyn will face numerous charges for his violent acts towards police and the public, but there are three women that are also facing charges for their part in the story. 50 year old Tasha Llewelyn, 24 year old Misty Llewelyn, and 35 year old Keria Jessica Hartley-Johnson who are all likely relatives of Justin Llewelyn are facing felony charges of obstruction of justice after they helped their fugitive relative elude investigators.

Obstruction of justice

Utah Code 76-8-306 states, “An actor commits obstruction of justice if the actor, with intent to hinder, delay, or prevent the investigation, apprehension, prosecution, conviction, or punishment of any person regarding conduct that constitutes a criminal offense:

Photo by: Orin Zebest

a) provides any person with a weapon;
b) prevents by force, intimidation, or deception, any person from performing any act that might aid in the discovery, apprehension, prosecution, conviction, or punishment of any person;
c) alters, destroys conceals, or removes any item or other thing;
d) makes, presents or uses any item or thing known by the actor to be false;
e) harbors or conceals a person;
f) provides a person with transportation, disguise, or other means of avoiding discovery or apprehension;
g) warns any person of impending discovery or apprehension;
h) warns any person of an order authorizing the interception of wire communications . . . ;
i) conceals information that is not privileged and that concerns the offense, after a judge . . . has ordered the actor to provide the information; or
j) provides false information regarding a suspect, a witness, the conduct constituting an offense, or any other material aspect of the investigation.”

Felony charges for helping a fugitive

Knowingly helping a friend, family member, or an acquaintance skirt being arrested by police comes with hefty charges, especially if the person being helped has committed serious offenses.
• If the charges the fugitive is trying to evade are capital or first degree felonies such is the case with Justin Llewelyn, anyone helping them faces second degree obstruction of justice.
• If the charges being dodged are second or third degree felonies and the helper prevents another from aiding authorities, removes or adds things that could be used during the investigation, or helps hide a person or aid in their escape, that accomplice could face a third degree felony.

• If someone assists a person in avoiding any charges lesser than a first degree felony and they give the fugitive a weapon, they may also face a third degree felony.

• Any other case of obstruction of justice is a class A misdemeanor.

All three women were found to have helped Llewelyn evade police custody either by hiding him, lying to officers or otherwise getting in the way of the investigation. They have all been charged with second degree obstruction of justice and are looking at a possibility of up to 15 years in prison and a fine as high as $10,000. For legal aid regarding obstruction of justice charges or any other charged related to being an accomplice to a crime, contact a criminal defense attorney.

Charges for Sneaking Drugs into Jail

When someone is arrested in Utah, they may attempt sneaking drugs into jail with them which could end in serious criminal charges.

Reasons for hiding drugs on a person

Photo by: Craig Dietrich

There are multiple reasons why someone would decide to bring drugs with them upon an arrest. The offender may be an addict who is afraid or feels incapable of going any amount of time without a fix. Another reason is when an arrestee wants to limit the amount of criminal charges by not offering up evidence that could be used against them in court. When this occurs and someone is in possession of illegal drugs in the presence of a police officer, they may attempt to ditch the evidence or even hide it on their person to avoid it being found by law enforcement.

Failure or success at concealment of drugs

If someone is found to be attempting to conceal, destroy or otherwise get rid of drug evidence during an arrest, they could face obstruction of justice, which would then accompany the possession charge. If police to not discover the drugs and the offender is transported to the county jail still in possession of illegal contraband, once discovered they may face charges greater than if the drugs were found prior to transport.

Photo by: Brandon Evershed

One degree higher than possession charge

Utah law does not permit offenders or visitors to bring illegal contraband anywhere inside or on the property of any jail, prison, or other correctional facility in Utah. Utah Code 58-37-8 states if a person is found to be “for the purpose of facilitating, arranging, or causing the transport, delivery, or distribution of [an illegal] substance . . . to an inmate or on the ground of any correctional facility . . . [they are] guilty of one degree more than the maximum penalty prescribed for that offense.” Whether hiding drugs to use while at jail or hiding them to keep criminal charges down, sneaking drugs into jail is never worth it. For more information on these charges or those leading to an arrest, contact a criminal defense attorney.