Prosecutors say they’ve held plea talks in kidnapping case

February 15, 2018

FILE - This photo provided by the Macon County Sheriff's Office in Decatur, Ill., shows Brendt Christensen. Lawyers for Christensen, a former physics student accused of kidnapping and killing Yingying Zhang, a University of Illinois scholar from China, intend to ask the presiding federal judge to recuse himself in the death penalty case. A two-page filing in central Illinois federal filed Wednesday, Feb. 7, 2018, doesn't spell out why Christensen's attorneys think Judge Colin Stirling Bruce should step aside. (Macon County Sheriff's Office via AP, File)

CHICAGO (AP) — Prosecutors say they’ve held talks on a possible plea deal with the suspect charged with kidnapping and killing a University of Illinois scholar from China.

Prosecutors disclosed the talks in an Urbana federal court filing which offered no additional details. They recently said they’ll seek the death penalty for Brendt Christensen, citing how he allegedly tortured 26-year-old Yingying Zhang before killing her. Her body hasn’t been found.

Such pretrial talks are not unusual. They often involve defendants offering cooperation for a lesser sentence. But what Christensen could offer and whether prosecutors would be willing to recommend a punishment other than death isn’t clear.

Wednesday’s filing focused on a request to unseal certain court papers. In addressing that issue, prosecutors revealed the talks.

Trial is set for April 2, 2019.

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