Carlee Russell, the Alabama nursing student whose abduction hoax made national headlines earlier this year, was found guilty on Wednesday of two misdemeanor counts by a Hoover municipal court judge.
Russell, 26, pleaded not guilty at the Oct. 11 hearing to charges of false reporting to law enforcement authorities and falsely reporting an incident, according to AL.com.
Still, Judge Brad Bishop found her guilty. Bishop recommended Russell serve a year behind bars; pay $17,874 in restitution; and $1,662 in fines.
Russell “fidgeted nervously” in court as she awaited the judge’s ruling.
A jury trial in Alabama municipal court is not guaranteed, leaving a judge to decide on the case.
Russell’s lawyers, Emory Anthony and Richard Jaffe, said they plan to appeal the verdict.
“There’s no need of having a trial here, knowing their position,’’ Anthony said after Wednesday’s hearing. “We have stipulated and appealed the case and it will start anew in the Bessemer Circuit Court.”
As for why his client did it, Anthony said more details will be released later.
“We’re dealing with issues with Carlee, and we want the best for Carlee,’’ Anthony stated, according to AL.com. “We realize a mistake was made but we don’t want to just pile on right now.”
On the night of July 13, Russell called 911 to say she was stopping to check on a child she spotted on the side of Interstate 459. She then called a family member saying she was going to check on the child, but the relative lost contact with her.
Her name trended on social media with people across the nation expressing concern.
Russell returned home on foot two days after vanishing, according to police.
On July 19, chief Derzis spoke with reporters to say the police department had brought in the Secret Service to assist with the case.
Investigators thoroughly analyzed the search history on Russell’s phone and learned she had looked up the kidnapping movie Taken in the hours before she vanished. She also searched for information on Amber Alerts and one-way bus tickets out of Alabama.
As pressure mounted, she confessed to Alabama authorities that she fabricated the story of her kidnapping.
Police received a statement from her attorney, which Hoover Police Department Chief Nicholas Derzis read to reporters at a July 24 news conference.
“There was no kidnapping on Thursday, July 13, 2023,” the statement said.
“My client apologizes for her actions to this community, the volunteers who were searching for her, to the Hoover Police Department and other agencies as well as to her friends and family,” the statement continued. “We ask for your prayers for Carlee as she addresses her issues and attempts to move forward.”