‘Needs to be Some Sort of Enhancement’: Police Chief Calls for Harsher Penalty for Carlee Russell, After Judge Finds Her Guilty of Faking Abduction, Sentences Her to One Year In Jail

An Alabama judge has found Carlee Russell, a 26-year-old woman who faked her abduction on July 13, guilty of fraud. Some people are divided on her punishment, with her defense team looking to take her case to trial.

The young woman stood before Municipal Judge Brad Bishop in a Hoover municipal court on Wednesday, October 11, and entered a not-guilty plea to charges of false reporting to law enforcement authorities and falsely reporting an incident around 2:14 p.m.

Police Chief Calls for Harsher Penalty for Carlee Russell, After Judge Finds Her Guilty of Faking Abduction, Sentences Her to One Year In Jail
Carlethia “Carlee” Russell (Facebook/Thomar Latrell Simmons)

Bishop reviewed the state prosecution’s recommendations and sentenced her to one year in jail and ordered her to pay $17,874 in restitution and two fines valued at $831 each. In Alabama, there are no jury trials in municipal courts, but if an offense can lead to jail time, a defendant can have the case tried at a higher level.

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Hoover Police Chief Nick Derzis said he believed Russell should have faced more severe charges because of the panic her allegations caused.

“It’s the same as someone who goes out and maybe shoplifts less than $500 worth of merchandise. It’s the same penalty, and I just think there needs to be some sort of enhancement when you’re talking about being kidnapped and being a victim of a serious crime,” said Derzis, according to WBRC.

Derzis’ department was on high alert after the woman filed a false police report claiming she saw a child on I-459 and tried to help before a stranger abducted her. Russell convinced law enforcement, family, and friends that she was kidnapped, only to return home on July 15.

After days of searching and fear in the community, Russell admitted it was all a lie.

The judge noted that Russell may want to appeal his ruling to a circuit court. If they take her case, she will have the opportunity for a trial by jury.

“There’s no need for a trial here, knowing their position. We have stipulated and appealed the case, and it will start anew in the Bessemer Circuit Court,” Attorney Emory Anthony said to AL.com reporters after Wednesday’s hearing, protesting the judge’s decision to have her serve jail time for a Class A misdemeanor.

The lawyer also noted that his client had never been in trouble with the law before, so her penalty should not be so severe.

“If you can find where someone was put in jail for that, bring the file to me, and I’ll look at it,’’ he said. “Generally, they’re not put in jail.”

In addition to being concerned about the verdict, Russell’s legal team is also worried about Russell’s psychological well-being, acknowledging she was nervous to go before the judge. He told the Alabama newspaper outlet he didn’t want her to have a breakdown, so his team is “handling her with kid gloves and making sure her mental state is just fine.”

The attorneys said her mental state is one reason why she has not gone into detail about why she did it.

“We’re dealing with issues with Carlee, and we want the best for Carlee. We realize a mistake was made, but we don’t want to just pile on right now,” Anthony said.

The lawyers, however, agreed that Russell should be required to pay restitution because of the resources that officials exhausted trying to locate her during those 49 hours.

“We don’t disagree with that, but to lock her up and put her in jail, we disagree,’’ Anthony continued.

The attorney general’s office invited Russell’s defense team to speak before a grand jury in lieu of their appeal. They declined it and are now unsure if more charges will be filed.

Read the original story here.

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