“Overzealous” legal backlash against the Carlee Russell kidnapping hoax came only because a black woman was at the center, The Atlantic writer Jemele Hill tweeted.
After discovering that Russell, a 24-year-old nursing student, fabricated the story of her abduction, police officers returned two misdemeanor charges against the Alabama woman.
State legislatures are also seeking to increase penalties for faking kidnapping.
Via her X account (formerly known as Twitter), Hill called these efforts “overzealous” actions because of Russell’s race and claimed the same would not have happened if she had been white.
“She has already been charged and will likely have to pay compensation. No problem with that. What I’m saying is that this legislature is overzealous because the black woman was the focus of this hoax. I promise you, if she were a white woman, no one would pass a law to tighten the laws against police lying.” Hill wrote.
After meeting opposition, Hill continued to argue that a white woman would not push new legislation like Russell.
“Okay, I’ll join, where is the Susan Smith Act in North Carolina? Where are the laws that strengthen lying to the police when we have seen white women consistently lie when calling the police because Black people simply exist in the spaces they don’t want us in? A white woman just lied in California that she was kidnapped by two Latinos and it turns out she spent three weeks with an old friend… where’s the new law?” She wrote.
Susan Smith killed her two sons in 1994 when she claimed a black man had abducted her in a car theft. She is currently serving a life sentence with the possibility of parole in 2024.
The California example likely relates to the recent 2020 jury conviction of Kathleen Sorensen, who made a false report blaming a Latino couple for attempting to kidnap their children.
In 2023, a judge sentenced Sorensen to 90 days in prison.
Russell is currently being charged with false reporting to law enforcement and false reporting of an incident, both of which carry a maximum sentence of one year in prison.
She was released from prison after posting $1,000 bail on each of her charges.
When it was pointed out that one of the Alabama lawmakers who advocated increasing penalties for falsifying kidnappings is a black woman, Hill reiterated her argument that minorities “often carry the water for white supremacy.”
“I don’t know why some people don’t understand that marginalized people often carry the water for white supremacy. More than half of white women voted for Donald Trump despite being told he would take away their reproductive rights. There are black police officers who enjoy the same anti-black actions as others. That’s not hard”, Hill wrote.
In a later post, she summarized: “A lot of people in the comments don’t seem to understand something: 1) Carlee Russell is already facing multiple charges for lying to the police (which she was supposed to be doing) and will likely have to pay compensation to the Investigation (as it should) 2) Think critically and ask yourself why this legislator suddenly felt the need to introduce legislation to strengthen existing laws. Hmm… I can’t really say.”