Wisconsin woman accused of faking abduction avoids jail

Former student pleads guilty to lesser charges, to pay partial restitution

July 02, 2004|By KNIGHT RIDDER/TRIBUNE

MADISON, Wis. - The college student whose faked abduction led to a huge manhunt shown live around the country avoided jail yesterday by pleading guilty to two misdemeanor charges and accepting a sentence of three years' probation.

She will have to pay partial restitution, perform community service and continue therapy. If she meets all the conditions, her convictions would be expunged.

Audrey Seiler's appearance in Dane County Circuit Court was the first time she has been seen publicly since she was found in a Madison swamp in March.

The 20-year-old Minnesota resident who has since withdrawn from the University of Wisconsin-Madison, apologized for fabricating her story and thanked the community for its concern for her well-being.

Composed and calm, Seiler delivered a soft-spoken, five-minute statement to the court before receiving her sentence from Circuit Judge James L. Martin.

Seiler said she disappeared to clear her head and figure things out, and only expected to be gone for a few hours. "It sounds so naive and foolish to think no one would know I was gone," Seiler said. "The words `I'm sorry' aren't enough to express the meaning and the feelings I wish to convey."

Seiler was seen on a security video leaving her apartment building early on March 27. When friends couldn't find her the next day, an intense search began around Madison. She was found March 31 in a marshy area two miles from campus.

She first told police she had been abducted from her apartment at knifepoint, then later said she had left on her own but was abducted elsewhere in Madison.

She never fully admitted to police that the story was a hoax, but was seen on a convenience store security video purchasing rope, duct tape and other items she had claimed her kidnapper used to restrain her.

The two charges of obstructing police carried maximum fines of $10,000, and up to nine months in jail, or both.

The complaint alleged she manufactured the event to get the attention of a longtime boyfriend.

Dane County District Attorney Brian Blanchard objected to Martin's plan to wipe the convictions from Seiler's record if she meets all conditions of her probation.

He called Seiler's behavior "selfish" and "narcissistic," and said her actions and false statements threatened public safety.

Seiler was ordered to make restitution to the Madison Police Department at a rate of $250 a month. Over her three years probation, that would add up to $9,000. Blanchard said the total cost of the police effort exceeded $67,500.

Her attorney, Randy Hopper, said Seiler was suffering from depression triggered by the death of a close aunt a year and a half ago.

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