Photo courtesy of the Hoover Police Department
Carlee Russell, who claimed she was kidnapped in a story that drew national headlines, was found guilty of faking her own abduction, AL.com reports.
The decision was handed down on Wednesday (October 11) by Municipal Judge Brad Bishop and recommended by state prosecutors after Russell pleaded not guilty to false reporting to law enforcement authorities and falsely reporting an incident.
After the conviction, Bishop recommended that Russell serve one year in jail and pay $17,874 in restitution. Additionally, Russell was levied with two fines of $831 each.
Russell’s attorneys, Emory Anthony and Richard Jaffe, said they will appeal the verdict to the Jefferson County Circuit Court, where they’ll be a jury trial because prosecutors recommend jail time for their client. There are no trials in municipal court.
“There’s no need of having a trial here, knowing their position,’’ Anthony said. “We have stipulated and appealed the case and it will start anew in the Bessemer Circuit Court.”
Anthony vehemently disagrees with jail time for his client because this is her first offense.
“If you can find where someone was put in jail for that, bring the file to me and I’ll look at it,’’ Anthony continued. “Generally, they’re not put in jail.”
“Restitution, we don’t disagree with that, but to lock her up and put her in jail, we disagree,’’ he said.
On July 13, Russell called 911 and reported seeing a toddler alone on Interstate 459 in Alabama after leaving her part-time job at a Birmingham spa and stopping to get food from a local restaurant.
Officials said after she called 911 to report the child, who appeared lost, she was on the phone with a family member before leaving to offer help to the toddler.
Following a two-day search, Russell returned to her parent’s home around the night of July 15. After being taken to the UAB Hospital for evaluation, she claimed she escaped from a man and woman who kidnapped her.
Days later, the Hoover Police Department said they did not find any evidence to support the claim that she was abducted in their investigation.
“What we can say is [that] we’ve been unable to verify most of Carlee’s initial statements made to investigators,” Hoover Police Department Chief Nicholas Derzis noted.
Derzis also said that before Russell went missing she searched for Amber Alerts, the movie Taken, and purchased bus tickets.
Eventually, Russell apologized for concocting the false abduction story in a statement delivered by Anthony on July 24.
“There was no kidnapping on Thursday, July 13, 2023,” Anthony said at a press conference at the time. “My client did not see a baby on the side of the road. My client did not leave the Hoover area when she was identified as a missing person.”
“My client did not have any help in this incident,” Anthony continued. “This was a single act done by herself. My client was not with anyone, or in any hotel with anyone at the time she was missing. My client apologizes for her actions to this community.”
Russell was arrested and charged with two class A misdemeanors for making false reports to law enforcement authorities and falsely reporting an incident on July 28.
In response to the fiasco, state Sen. April Weaver sponsored a bill that will make it a felony to make false claims about being abducted.
Weaver said the legislation would include “strong prison sentences and mandatory restitution requirements for the full cost of resources expended by law enforcement agencies during a hoax abduction.”
“Individuals who concoct and carry out sham kidnappings and lead our law enforcement officers on wild goose chases must be given severe penalties for their deceptive actions,” Weaver’s statement read.
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