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New attorney for Brendt Christensen

CHAMPAIGN COUNTY - The man charged with kidnapping UI scholar Yingying Zhang has a new attorney, after his previous lawyers asked to be taken off the case.

Last week, the Bruno's filed a motion saying Brendt Christensen couldn't afford their counsel. Friday, the judge granted the request and appointed a public defender.

Christensen is currently accused of kidnapping, but it could change. The prosecution says the case is heading in the direction of the death penalty.

The attorney general has to make the official ruling, but the Bruno's believe it's too important to wait. Whoever represents Christensen needs to get to work now.

The death penalty defense begins when the government even hints there could be one. Since they presume Zhang is dead, they believe it's coming.

Christensen asked the court to appoint him a public defender. They've reached out to a lawyer from D.C. who has taken part in cases involving terrorism.

"We will do our best to represent Mr. Christensen to the best of our abilities, hopefully to avoid the Department of Justice authorizing the death penalty and, if unsuccessful, having Mr. Christensen found not guilty and avoid the death penalty. Thank you."

The new defense said it was the last time they would comment on the case.

The Bruno's are required to destroy or give back all the evidence they were given. The prosecution will deliver the evidence to the new attorneys within the week.

Despite the change, the judge still wants to keep the trial on track. It's scheduled to begin in February.

Christensen qualifies for a public defender because his spouse only makes $2,500 a month, he has $60,000 in student loans and has $4,000 in car loans. 

Original: 12:15 pm, 9/8/17, Friday

CHAMPAIGN COUNTY, Ill. (WCIA) -- Accused kidnapper, Brendt Christensen, has a new lawyer.

Last week, his lawyers filed a motion saying Christensen could not afford their counsel defending him from charges associated with UI scholar Yingying Zhang's disappearance. Friday, his lawyers were granted their motion.

Christensen then asked for court-appointed lawyers. The prosecution says the case will probably become eligible for the death penalty. They've reached out to a lawyer from D.C. with experience in those types of cases.

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