Chapel Hill News

Carrboro assistant scoutmaster faces federal child pornography charge

An Orange County Boy Scout leader has been arrested on a federal child pornography charge. Brian Joseph Burnham, 36, of Chapel Hill was indicted in federal court late last month on one felony count of receiving child pornography.

The indictment, unsealed Tuesday in U.S. District Court in Greensboro, accused Burnham of receiving child pornography through interstate mail, shipping or transport over the past five years, beginning in January 2009 and ending on Nov. 20, 2014.

On the same day the indictment was unsealed, Orange County sheriff’s deputies arrested Burnham at Raleigh-Durham International Airport. One of Burnham’s attorneys, Locke T. Clifford of Greensboro, said Friday that Burnham knew the federal charges were pending and “cut short a trip to New Zealand.”

“He came back to face the music,” Clifford said.

If convicted, Burnham could spend five to 20 years in prison, according to federal codes.

Burnham for years worked as an assistant scoutmaster with Occoneechee Council’s Boy Scout Troop 845 in Carrboro.

The Scout troop is one of the most active in the United States. Troop members in recent years have teamed up with Habitat for Humanity to build homes in Guatemala, participated in cross-country biking trips to raise money for cancer research and enjoyed hiking trips through Spain.

Last year, Burnham was one of eight adults who accompanied 13 Boy Scouts on a five-week adventure in Nepal.

“Mr. Burnham is devastated by the charge,” his attorney Clifford said. “But he is even more concerned about any adverse impact it may have on the Boy Scouts.”

The day after Burnham’s arrest, Occoneechee Council leaders sent an email to the “Troop 845 Community,” informing them of his arrest and reminding parents of a meeting Thursday night with two experts who were going to talk about “scout youth protection” and “the impact of the arrest and news coverage on their children.”

John Akerman, an Occoneechee Council spokesman, declined to comment Friday about Burnham’s arrest. “As this matter is currently under investigation, we recommend contacting the Orange County Sheriff’s Office,” Akerman wrote in an email to The News & Observer.

Before his arrest this week, Burnham’s criminal history consisted of a traffic citation for driving with an expired registration sticker in 2008, state records show.