Carlee Russell apologizes for faking her own kidnapping: 'I made a grave mistake'

Carlee Russell, the Alabama woman who lied to police and faked a kidnapping that sparked national headlines, pleaded guilty this week and apologized for her actions.

Russell, 26, pleaded guilty to two misdemeanor counts for filing a false police report. A judge sentenced her to 12 months of probation, 100 hours of community service and continued mental health counseling. She will also have to pay about $18,000 in restitution.

Russell disappeared July 13 after calling 911 to report a toddler beside a stretch of Interstate 459 in the Birmingham suburb of Hoover. Her reported kidnapping captivated the country and fueled a massive law enforcement response. She returned home two days later and told police she had been abducted and forced into a vehicle.

Police later determined Russell had lied about her disappearance, and Russell eventually admitted to making up the story.

The Alabama attorney general’s office had argued that Russell should spend time in jail because of the time and energy that law enforcement spent in looking for her, according to The Associated Press. 


Carlee Russell in court (WBRC)

The judge presiding over her case said "it would be a waste of government resources" for Russell to receive jail time.

"One of the most expensive things the government does is incarcerate people.  And we reserve our jails for people who are genuinely a threat to the community," Judge David Carpenter said.  "And, although we're very upset about what you've done, you're not a threat to the community.  

I'm not gonna treat you any differently than I would treat any other first-time nonviolent misdemeanor offender," he continued.

Before she was sentenced, Russell issued a tearful apology to the court. Here’s her statement in full:  

"Your honor, 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.  I am 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. 

"I also extend my sincerest apologies to the Hoover Police Department and every other law enforcement agency and personnel for the position that I put them in and for the resources used.  I absolutely regret my decision and, in hindsight, wish that I had cried for help in a totally different manner.  My prayer is that I will be extended grace and given the opportunity to redeem who I truly am and restore that positively esteemed character that I have worked so hard to attain for the 25 years of my life.  Prior to this incident, I wholeheartedly can say that I'd never had any malicious intent to hurt anyone, and I pray that you will feel my sincerity and that, as I prepare to pick up the pieces and go on to restore my life, that you will witness the fruition of grace."