Christensen’s attorneys granted request to leave case


Photo courtesy of University of Illinois Police Department

Photo of Brendt Christensen, alleged kidnapper and killer of visiting Chinese scholar Yingying Zhang. Recent court documents revealed Christensen visited the University Counseling Center three months before Zhang’s disappearance.

By Jessica Bursztynsky, News editor

Attorneys representing Brendt Christensen have withdrawn from the case after a federal court judge granted their request on Friday.

Judge Colin Bruce appointed the office of the Federal Public Defender to take over representation of Yingying Zhang’s alleged kidnapper. A specific public defender has not yet been appointed.

Thomas, Evan and Anthony Bruno filed a motion Sept. 1 asking to stop representing Christensen after a prosecutors suggested they are seeking a superseding Grand Jury indictment against the alleged kidnapper. Higher charges could come in October, said Assistant U.S. Attorney Bryan Freres at the hearing.

“Attorneys reasonably anticipate that such additional charges may implicate the prospect of capital punishment,” the Brunos wrote in the motion.

If prosecutors can prove that Zhang’s death resulted from Christensen’s kidnapping, he could face either life in prison or the death penalty.

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    According to the motion filed, Christensen is unable to provide sufficient funding for the Brunos to represent higher charges.

    The Brunos argued that any delay in their motion could cause harm to Christensen’s defense, saying that future defense attorneys would need sufficient time to prepare for the February trial.

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