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Carlee Russell Gets Probation, Won’t Serve Jail Time For Faked Kidnapping

Carlee Russell, the Alabama woman who was found guilty in October to faking her kidnapping last summer, was sentenced Thursday to one year of probation and 100 hours of community service and ordered to pay restitution.

A municipal judge in October found the 26-year-old nursing student guilty of two misdemeanors: false reporting to law enforcement authorities and falsely reporting an incident. After originally pleading not guilty, she entered two guilty pleas on Thursday, local outlets reported.

The judge recommended In October that she serve jail time for falsely claiming to police that she had been abducted and held captive for two days. Her mysterious disappearance on July 13 made national headlines and sparked a massive search. In a 911 call, she said she had pulled over to the side of a busy highway because she saw a toddler walking on the shoulder. She also called relatives, who said they heard her scream before the call went silent.

Police found her car still running on the side of the road, but there was no sign of Russell. They found her purse and other belongings in the car, and her phone nearby.

Monday marked the first time Russell spoke in public since her disappearance. Through tears, she apologized in court for the panic the case had caused, according to local NBC affiliate WVTM. Her family also cried while she spoke, the news outlet reported.

Russell said Thursday that she “made a grave mistake” and was “extremely remorseful,” AL.com reported.

“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,” including local, state and national law enforcement agencies, Russell said.

Jefferson County Circuit Court Judge David Carpenter ordered Russell to pay nearly $18,000 in restitution and provide proof of mental health counseling, according to AL.com. She also received a suspended sentence of six months in jail.

State prosecutor Clark Morris argued Thursday that she should serve jail time for the hoax, telling the judge that she still hadn’t shared details about her disappearance with authorities.

“We still don’t know to this day where she was, how she got there, what she was doing, and with whom she was doing it,” he said, according to AL.com.

Immediately after her return, police said she told them she had been abducted by a man and woman and held in an 18-wheeler and a house before she escaped through the woods.

But surveillance video viewed by investigators showed that Russell had stolen a bathrobe, toilet paper and other items from her workplace and purchased snacks, Hoover Police Chief Nick Derzis said in a July press conference. She had also used her phone to search for details about Amber Alerts and the movie “Taken,” and looked for a one-way bus ticket from Birmingham, Alabama to Nashville, departing on the day she disappeared, Derzis said.

After the hearing, Derzis told the local ABC affiliate he was disappointed Russell wasn’t sentenced to jail time, but hopes she “gets the help she needs and hopefully will lead a good life from here on.”

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