Lawyers For Alleged Kidnapper Ask To Withdraw In Face Of Potential New Charges

Brendt Christensen

Brendt Christensen has been held in the Macon County Jail in Decatur, since his arrest on kidnapping charges following the disappearance of Yingying Zhang.

Macon County Jail

Lawyers for Brendt Christensen, the 27-year-old man accused of kidnapping Yingying Zhang, are asking a judge’s permission to withdraw from the case.

Attorneys Thomas, Evan and Anthony Bruno have been representing Christensen, who’s accused of kidnapping U of I visiting scholar Yingying Zhang.

But in a motion filed Friday, they noted that prosecutors suggested in court last week that they’ll ask a grand jury to hand down additional charges which could raise the possibility of the death penalty. That is the sentence Christensen could receive if convicted of a kidnapping resulting in the victim’s death.

The Brunos say that Christensen and his family simply cannot afford their services to fight any additional charges beyond the federal kidnapping charges he already faces. They say Christensen agrees with them that he should continue the case with a court-appointed attorney taking their place. A federal court hearing on the request is set for Friday morning in Urbana.

In their motion, the Brunos argue that withdrawing from the case now ensure that new attorneys can go through the case's "voluminous" evidence collected in the discovery process themselves, instead of coming to the case late in the process. Christensen's trial is set to begin in February, 2018.

26-year-old YIngying Zhang has been missing since June 9, when surveillance video showed her getting into a car at a bus stop on the University of Illinois campus. Investigators traced the vehicle to Christensen, who had recently received his master’s degree at the university.

FBI investigators have said they believe Zhang is dead, but her body has not been found. 

Story source: WILL