Carlee Russell could face criminal charges
By WVUA 23 News Student Reporter Peyton Newman
Carlee Russell’s 911 phone call heard across the nation could land her in legal trouble. She made a 911 call on July 13, claiming to have seen a child wandering along Interstate 459. Officers responding to the scene found neither a child or Russell. She showed up at her parents’ home in Hoover 49 hours later, and later admitted through her attorney the call had been a hoax.
Officials with the Jefferson County District Attorney’s Office spoke with Hoover Police Thursday about possibly charging Russell with two misdemeanors.
Chief Assistant District Attorney Lane Tolbert said police are focusing on charges of falsely reporting an incident and falsely reporting to law enforcement.
Tuscaloosa criminal defense attorney Joel Sogol explains the difference between a misdemeanor and felony charge.
“There’s misdemeanors and felonies,” Sogol said. “Felonies being the more serious, starting with a year and a day going up to life, or life without, depending on what it is. Misdemeanors are capped at 12 months, so it’s a lesser offense. But it is still an offense in which you can go to jail for up to 12 months or be fined up to $6,000.”
The media asked about Russell’s mental health during the last Hoover Police news conference, sparking speculation about an insanity plea. While Sogol says he does not know anything regarding her mental state, he does provide information that a psychiatric evaluation would have to be paid for by Russell herself in a misdemeanor trial. Misdemeanor trials cannot have a court-ordered psychiatric evaluation, unlike felony trials.
Sogol says he thinks it is likely these charges will be filed, and believes they should be.
“I would say it’s probably pretty likely,” Sogol said. “And I would say that there needs to be some kind of action to prevent people from making false claims that eat up our resources and our time and everything else, whether it’s this situation or other situations. But when people knowingly file a false claim, that needs to be addressed.”
Russell has not yet been charged with a crime.