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Carlee Russell pleads guilty to faking her own kidnapping in Alabama, apologizes for 'grave mistake'

Russell admitted she lied about being abducted in Alabama in July and about seeing a toddler walking alongside a highway.
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An Alabama woman who confessed to lying about being kidnapped has pleaded guilty to criminal charges related to the hoax that set off a national search last summer.

Carlee Russell pleaded guilty in Jefferson County Circuit Court on Thursday afternoon to two misdemeanor counts for filing a false police report.

She will be under supervised probation for 12 months and she must repay almost $18,000 in restitution to the city of Hoover and complete 100 hours of community service. Russell must also continue receiving mental health counseling as a condition for probation.

Judge David Carpenter suspended Russell’s two six-month sentences, saying, “It would be a waste of government resources to put you in jail.”

Russell spoke in court for the first time, acknowledging her actions.

"I want to genuinely apologize for my actions and the resulting negative impact inflicted onto others. I made a grave mistake while trying to fight through various emotional issues and stress," she said. "I’m extremely remorseful for the panic, fear and various range of negative emotions that were experienced across the nation."

"I want to specifically acknowledge and take accountability for the pain and embarrassment that I inflicted upon my family, my church family, friends, neighbors, community and all of those who were directly involved in search efforts for me," she added.

A review hearing is scheduled for Oct. 16 to check on the paid amount of restitution and the completed hours of community service.

"We want to thank Judge Carpenter for doing what we think all judges should do with a Class A misdemeanor first offense," attorney Emory Anthony said after the hearing. "Carlee apologized to the communities, to Hoover, to the volunteers for her actions. I hope that we will accept that and move on and allow her to live her live."

Carlethia “Carlee” Nichole Russell
Carlee Russell.Courtesy Hoover Police Department via Facebook

On July 13, Russell, a nursing student, called 911 and reported seeing a child on the interstate in Hoover, which is about 10 miles south of Birmingham. She disappeared after the call.

Police found her car and items belonging to her shortly afterward.

Russell showed up at her house after nearly two days of search efforts and headlines about her case. She told police she had been forced into a vehicle and abducted but had escaped her captors and walked home.

Days later, police said they were unable to verify most of Russell's details about the alleged kidnapping, including claims that she had been taken to a house where a man and a woman forced her to undress while they took nude photos of her.

Police discovered internet searches on Russell's phone for "if you have to pay for an Amber Alert," for a one-way ticket from Birmingham to Nashville, Tennessee, and for the movie "Taken," which is about an abduction.

On July 24, Russell admitted that she had not seen a toddler walking on the side of a highway and that she lied about being kidnapped, her attorney said in a statement.

Russell was found guilty of misdemeanor counts in municipal court in October. The judge recommended a one-year prison sentence, but her attorneys stipulated an appeal before the verdict.