Attorneys for accused kidnapper ask to withdraw from case


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URBANA — Saying their client can't afford to pay them for a possible death-penalty defense, Urbana attorneys for accused kidnapper Brendt Christensen have asked a federal judge to let them withdraw from his case.

On Friday, Tom Bruno and his sons, Anthony and Evan Bruno, attorneys for Christensen, filed a motion in U.S. District Court asking to withdraw as his attorneys.

The 27-year-old Champaign man was indicted in July for the kidnapping of missing University of Illinois visiting scholar Yingying Zhang, 26.

Although she has not been located, the FBI has said repeatedly she is presumed dead. Ms. Zhang was reported missing June 9.

Christensen was arrested June 30 and has been in custody since.

A hearing on the Brunos' request is set for 10:30 a.m. Friday before Judge Colin Bruce.

Evan Bruno said the motion speaks for itself and declined to answer additional questions:

"On Aug. 28, The Government suggested in open court that it would seek a superseding Grand Jury indictment on additional charges within the next 30 to 45 days. Attorneys reasonably anticipate that such additional charges may implicate the prospect of capital punishment.

"Despite best efforts over the past two months, Defendant and his family have been unable to secure sufficient additional funds to pay Attorneys for respresentation on additional charges."

The motion said that Christensen and the Brunos agree that Christensen should proceed with a court-appointed attorney.

Given the amount of discovery the lawyers have been provided by the U.S. Attorney's office in advance of a February trial, the Brunos ask that a new lawyer be appointed as soon as possible so as not to cause their client further delay.

"Attorneys, if granted leave to withdraw, will remain willing to provide advice and consultation, to new counsel, as appropriate, pro bono," the motion said.

Christensen is being held in the Macon County jail in Decatur.


Mary Schenk is a reporter covering police, courts and breaking news at The News-Gazette. Her email is, and you can follow her on Twitter (@schenk).