A judge recommended jail time for a young Black woman nursing student who was convicted of faking her kidnapping in Alabama, but does such an offense that critics have suggested was a victimless crime merit spending time behind bars?
While Carlee Russell was not immediately sentenced, Municipal Judge Brad Bishop on Wednesday reportedly decided to impose the minimum punishment months after the 26-year-old entered a guilty plea to charges of false reporting to law enforcement authorities and falsely reporting an incident.
In addition to being sentenced to one year in the Hoover County Jail, Bishop ruled that Russell must pay $17,874 in restitution and two separate fines totaling $1,662, AL.com reported.
The guilty verdict for the misdemeanor is Russell’s first-ever criminal conviction – circumstances that should preclude her from jail time, her lawyers said.
“If you can find where someone was put in jail for that, bring the file to me and I’ll look at it,’’ said defense attorney Emory Anthony, who is appealing the verdict. “Generally, they’re not put in jail.”
Anthony added: “Restitution, we don’t disagree with that, but to lock her up and put her in jail, we disagree.’’
Anthony’s sentiment was one generally shared on social media following the news of Russell’s court date. People wondered how jail would rehabilitate Russell when mental health counseling may better serve her than being locked up behind bars.
“I have no problem saying Carlee Russell doesn’t need to go to jail,” cultural critic Kimberly Nicole Foster wrote on the social media app formerly known as Twitter. “What she did is unequivocally wrong but what does incarceration do?”
Theologian Candice Marie Benbow wondered why the judge didn’t consider anything other than incarceration.
“There’s absolutely no reason for Carlee Russell to go to jail,” Benbow posted. “Make her pay fines. Give her community service. Court ordered therapy and treatment? Yup. Jail time? Nah.”
Families Against Mandatory Minimum (FAMM), a nonprofit abolitionist group, has long made a case for an “alternative to incarceration.”
Not only does jailing someone cost taxpayers more money but it also is no guarantee the offender won’t commit the same or other crimes upon release, FAMM has argued.
“Just because a certain punishment does not involve time in prison or jail does not mean it is ‘soft on crime’ or a ‘slap on the wrist,’” FAMM writes on its website.
What happened to Carlee Russell?
On July 13, Russell disappeared after calling 911 to report a missing toddler walking along Interstate 459. She was driving in Hoover, a city just a few miles south of Birmingham. According to the police, Russell called a family member after she reported the lone toddler, but when she went to check on the missing child, she lost contact with her family member. According to a report issued by the Hoover Police, Russell let out a scream before the call dropped. Officers arrived at the scene to find her vehicle with all of her belongings inside, but Russell and the child were nowhere to be found. Before the incident, police said they did not receive any reports about a missing child, let alone one wandering along the interstate.
Miraculously, on July 15, authorities were notified that Russell had returned to her parents’ home on foot. She was taken to a local hospital for an evaluation, treated and released.
Russell’s mother Talitha Robinson-Russell and her father Carlos Russell spoke briefly to NBC News about what happened when their daughter returned home.
“We tried to hug her as best we could, but I had to stand back because she was not in a good state,” Talitha said as tears began to well up in her eyes.
Talitha said they could not share specifics about what happened to their daughter due to the ongoing investigation, but they do believe Carlee’s “abductor” is still at large. She also mentioned that the 25-year-old had to “fight for her life” to break free from her kidnapper.
“There were moments when she physically had to fight for her life and there were moments where she had to mentally fight for her life,” the matriarch added.
Carlee is healing from her traumatic kidnapping day by day, but her father Carlos said she’s currently struggling with “bad dreams” and “moments where some things make her cringe, afraid,” including loud noises. “Just different things that trigger,” Carlos added.
“She’s having to deal with the trauma of people just making completely false allegations about her,” Talitha added. “Carlee has given detectives her statement so that they can continue to pursue her abductor.”
Days later, Hoover Police held a press conference where authorities presented some surprising facts, including a report that prior to her alleged abduction, Russell used her phone to search for information about Amber Alerts, one-way bus tickets and Taken, the blockbuster film starring Liam Neeson about a pair of women that are kidnapped by human traffickers.
In the early morning hours of the day Russell was reported missing, a search on her phone was performed for the term “how to take money from a register without being caught.”
Hoover Police Chief Nick Derzis suggested Russell stole a bathrobe and other items belonging to her employer in the hours before she was reported missing. Russell also picked up food she ordered from a Greek restaurant, bought snacks from a Target store and stayed in the parking lot there until she drove to the highway where she reported the unaccompanied toddler, Derzis said.
However, when officers arrived at the side of Interstate 459 South, they only saw Russell’s car idling with one door open and her phone, watch and purse still inside. While the Greek food was also still there, the snacks and the bathrobe were not, Derzis said.
Derzis told reporters that Russell claimed she was kidnapped by a white man with orange hair, forced over a fence and into an 18-wheeler truck, where she was blindfolded but not bound and could hear the sounds of a baby and a woman’s voice. Derzis said Russell also told police that she was able to flee before being captured again. No physical or sexual contact was alleged, Derzis said. But Russell told police that when she was placed into another vehicle, she was able to escape by running through the woods until she emerged near her parents’ home.
Derzis said he noticed Russell had a small cut on her lip, a torn shirt and $107 in her right sock.
After the bombshell revelations were made, Russell’s boyfriend deleted a post on his Instagram that went viral in part because of how he described her condition as being physically dire. Thomar Latrell Simmons’ post claimed Russell “was literally fighting for her life for 48 hours” and she was not “physically & mentally stable” as a result of her ordeal with “her kidnapper.”
On July 24, Russell confessed that her kidnapping was a complete “hoax” and that no baby was walking along the interstate. She was charged with one count of false reporting to law enforcement and one count of falsely reporting an incident.
The post Does Carlee Russell Really Deserve To Be Locked Up? Judge Recommends Jail For Kidnapping Hoax appeared first on NewsOne.
Does Carlee Russell Really Deserve To Be Locked Up? Judge Recommends Jail For Kidnapping Hoax was originally published on newsone.com
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