Carlee Russell Avoids Jail Time for Kidnapping Hoax After Tearful Plea to Judge

Carlee Russell attended a court hearing on Thursday, March 21, 2024. (Credit: YouTube/AL.com)

After staging her kidnapping and triggering a massive police search, Carlee Russell has avoided jail time.

The Alabama nursing student was sentenced to probation on Thursday, March 21, after pleading guilty to two misdemeanor counts, according to video published online by Al.com.

Russell initially pleaded not guilty, even after admitting to police that she made the whole thing up.

The legal saga began on the night of July 13, 2023, when Russell called 911 to say she was stopping to check on a child she spotted on the side of Interstate 459. She called a family member saying she was about to approach the child, but the relative lost contact with her.

Russell returned home on foot two days after vanishing, and admitted she faked her kidnapping.

In October 2023, a judge in Hoover, Alabama found her guilty of false reporting to law enforcement and falsely reporting an incident — both misdemeanors.

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Russell, 26, appealed the verdict and was set for trial this week. Instead, she entered a guilty plea this afternoon on both counts.

The judge asked her if she was “satisfied” with her plea agreement. Russell responded “yes sir.”

A prosecutor then spoke and blasted Russell.

“Ms. Russell faked a kidnapping, duped a community, and contrived this situation,” the prosecutor said. “We still don’t know to this day where she was, how she got there, what she was doing, with whom she was doing it with.”

Russell began to cry as the prosecutor demanded she get jail time.

The judge ultimately disagreed and said it would be “a waste of government resources” to lock Russell up, noting that he prefers to put people in jail who are “genuinely a threat to the community.”

Russell read a prepared statement in court.

“I want to genuinely apologize for my actions,” she said through tears. “I made a grave mistake while trying to fight through various emotional issues and stress.”

She asked for “grace” and expressed “sincere apologies” to the Hoover Police Department, others who assisted in the search, her family, and members of her church.

“I absolutely regret my decision and in hindsight wish I had cried for help in a totally different manner. My prayer is that I will be extended grace and be given the opportunity to redeem who I truly am and restore the positively esteemed character that I have worked so hard to obtain for the 25 years of my life prior to this incident,” Russell said.

The judge sentenced her to a year in the Jefferson County jail, but said he was suspending the sentence and put her on probation for 12 months. He demanded that she pay $17,974.88 in restitution to the city of Hoover, serve 100 hours of community service, and continue mental health counseling.

Russell was ordered to return to court in October for a progress hearing.

Back in July, her name trended on social media with people across the nation expressing concern.

As the kidnapping case made national headlines, the Hoover P.D. brought in the Secret Service to assist with the investigation.

Then on July 24, Hoover Police Chief Nicholas Derzis read a statement from Russell’s attorney admitting the kidnapping was a hoax.

“There was no kidnapping on Thursday, July 13, 2023,” the statement said.

Watch the video from Thursday’s hearing below:

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