Carlee Russell Found Guilty Of Misdemeanors After Faked Kidnapping
Carlee Russell, the Alabama woman who mysteriously disappeared for two days in July, and then later admitted she had not been kidnapped, was found guilty Wednesday of two misdemeanors.
Russell, 26, made national headlines and sparked a massive search after she allegedly told police she had been abducted and held captive. On the night of July 13, Russell called 911 saying she had seen a toddler walking along a busy highway in Hoover. She also called a relative who said they heard her scream. When police arrived, they found her car abandoned on the shoulder but still running, with her purse on the seat and her phone and wig nearby. They did not find her or a child when searching the area.
Russell returned home on foot 49 hours later, telling investigators she had escaped two abductors by running through the woods to her home, authorities said. But in a statement shared by her attorney on July 28, she admitted that she had concocted the whole story and apologized to investigators and volunteers who had searched for her and publicized her disappearance, asking for their “forgiveness and prayers.”
Russell was charged on July 28 with two misdemeanors ― false reporting to law enforcement authorities and falsely reporting an incident ― and pleaded not guilty.
The municipal judge who found her guilty at a hearing Wednesday recommended that she serve one year in jail and pay $17,874 in restitution, along with other fines of $831 each, AL.com reported.
Russell plans to appeal the verdict, her attorney Emory Anthony said outside the courthouse, adding that jail time was not appropriate for the offenses she’s been charged with. An appeal would take the case to trial in state court, where Russell would face a jury.
In announcing the charges in July, Alabama Attorney General Steve Marshall said, “We don’t see this as a victimless crime. There are significant [law enforcement] hours spent, resources expended as a result of this investigation. And not only that, but the many men and women who are civilians have worn those yellow vests on a hot afternoon and evening, looking for someone they thought was abducted, trying to be of assistance.”
“Her decisions that night created panic and alarm for the citizens of our city and even across the nation, as concern grew that a kidnapper was on the loose using a small child as bait,” Hoover Police Chief Nick Derzis said at that news conference.
Russell has not offered an explanation for her disappearance since her original account to investigators, who pointed to a number of inconsistencies in her story.
“I don’t want her to have a breakdown,’’ Anthony said Wednesday. “So, we’re handling her with kid gloves and making sure her mental state is just fine.”
Russell’s attorney criticized authorities for their lack of compassion in prosecuting the case.
“They know the young lady was not off on a whim,” he said.
Russell’s attorneys did not immediately respond to HuffPost’s request for comment.