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Carlee Russell Convicted of Falsely Reporting Highway Kidnapping, Prison Time Recommended
“She understands what’s happened, she’s apologized for what transpired,” Carlee Russell’s defense lawyer, Emory Anthony, said.
An Alabama nursing student who faked her own kidnapping along the side of a highway over the summer has been convicted for misleading authorities, a verdict she plans to appeal.
A judge found Carlethia “Carlee” Nichole Russell guilty of false reporting to law enforcement and falsely reporting an incident, both misdemeanors, according to WBRC. She pleaded not guilty to both counts in Hoover Municipal Court on Wednesday.
Will Carlee Russell get prison time?
The Alabama Attorney General’s Office recommended a total of a year in jail for the charges, as well as for her to pay nearly $18,000 in restitution for carrying out the July abduction hoax, and an additional $831 dollars in court fines.
On July 13, Russell, 25, vanished after dialing 911 to report a toddler was unattended along the side of I-459 in Hoover. For more than two days, police treated her disappearance as a missing persons case, which garnered national headlines.
But 49 hours later, Russell turned up at her house on foot. She told investigators that she’d been taken from the side of the road by an unknown man who forced her into a semi-truck. The nursing student said her kidnapper later held her captive at a home where he made her strip naked. Russell also claimed she managed to escape but was caught again by her abductor.
In the aftermath of her disappearance, Russell’s family corroborated her account on social media and spoke to various reporters defending her claims.
Police ultimately found her narrative not credible. At the time, investigators said Russell had acted “strange” and that she conducted suspicious internet searches in the days leading up to her vanishing, including searching for "how to pay for an Amber Alert," “how to take money from a register without getting caught,” and on the movie Taken, about an abduction.
Russell later turned herself into local authorities. She eventually admitted to orchestrating the entire situation through a statement from her lawyer.
“My client did not see a baby on the side of the road,” Russell’s lawyer, Emory Anthony, said. “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, but this was a single act done by herself.”
Carlee Russell Expected to Appeal Her Conviction
Russell is expected to appeal Wednesday's ruling in circuit court, particularly the jail time being recommended, according to NBC News. Her lawyers have said there is no past precedent for such a crime in Alabama.
“Under the circumstances, a Class A misdemeanor, a first time offense — if you can find someone was put in jail I want you to bring me the file,” Anthony told WBRC. “We totally disagree with that. The restitution, we believe, is fair.”
Russell may also face additional charges. Prosecutors have assembled a grand jury in the case, according to WBRC. Her lawyer said Russell is remorseful for her actions. He added that his client has become emotionally vulnerable as her case proceeded through the courts.
“She understands what’s happened, she’s apologized for what transpired,” Anthony said. “I don’t want her to have any type of breakdown. We are handling her with kid gloves.”
Russell’s defense team has two weeks to file an appeal.
Russell’s ex-boyfriend, Thomar Latrell Simmons, said after the alleged kidnapping was revealed to be a hoax that the couple had a small fight before the ordeal.
“I mean we had a little argument but it wasn’t nothing to kidnap yourself over,” Simmons said on the podcast 205 Boyz.
Oxygen.com has reached out to Russell’s legal team for further comment.