Carlee Russell was found guilty Wednesday of faking her own kidnapping over the summer in a case that baffled the nation.
The 26-year-old nursing student was convicted of filing a false police report and falsely reporting seeing a baby crawling alongside an Alabama highway just minutes before she seemingly vanished.
Russell nervously wrung her hands behind her back as she entered a not-guilty plea for the crimes despite publicly admitting to the hoax weeks after rescuers launched search parties for both her and the imaginary child, AL.com reported.
A Hoover judge, however, recommended a one-year prison sentence and a restitution payment of $17,874, as well as two fines of $831 each.
Russell and her team are planning to appeal the verdict to the circuit court, with her attorney Emory Anthony telling reporters jail time is an inappropriate punishment for a Class A misdemeanor, especially considering it was Russell’s first offense.
“She has apologized … through me but that’s not good enough. But she has apologized for what transpired,” Anthony said.
The attorney noted that Russell has been suffering emotionally since the hoax made headlines across the country.
“I don’t want her to have any type of breakdown or anything of that nature. So we’re handling her with kid gloves and trying to make sure her mental state is just fine,” he said.
Russell’s motive for lying about her own kidnapping — and where she was during the 49 hours of the search — remains a mystery.
The details will eventually be exposed in due time, Anthony said.
“We’re dealing with issues with Carlee, and we want the best for Carlee,’’ Anthony said. “We realize a mistake was made but we don’t want to just pile on right now.”
The bizarre chain of events kicked off July 13 when Russell called 911 to report seeing a baby crawling along the side of Interstate 459 in Hoover but vanished before police could arrive.
She showed up at her parent’s house two days later, where law enforcement found her “conscious and speaking,” despite dispatch reports that she was “unresponsive but breathing.”