Carlethia "Carlee" Russell, the Alabama woman who disappeared after telling police a story about a child walking along a highway, was in court Wednesday, possibly the first step to a criminal trial on charges that she faked her own kidnapping. Russell, 26, faces two misdemeanor charges for falsely reporting to law enforcement and falsely reporting an incident. She was found guilty by a judge who recommended up to a year in jail and a fine of over $17,000, USA Today reports. In Alabama, Russell may be convicted in municipal court without presenting a defense to a jury. An appeal sends the case to circuit court, where she has the right to a trial by jury. If she's found guilty in circuit court, there will be a new sentencing.
Hoover, Al., Police Chief Nick Derzis has said that Russell's decisions created national panic and alarm that a possible kidnapper was on the run and using a toddler as bait. Russell went missing in Hoover on July 13 and reappeared at home 49 hours later. She called police to report a toddler walking along Interstate 459 South in just a diaper, but police were unable to confirm Russell's report. She later called her brother's girlfriend, who reported she heard Russell scream before losing contact. Russell told police she was placed in a semi-truck and overheard a man and woman talking while a baby was crying. Russell said she escaped but was recaptured and blindfolded. She told police the couple made her take her clothes off and took pictures of her.