Runaway Bride Jennifer Wilbanks Pleads ‘No Contest’ to Felony

Jennifer Wilbanks, the infamous “Runaway Bride,” today pleaded “No Contest” to felony charges.

Runaway bride pleads ‘no contest’ to felony (CNN)

Choking up before a Georgia judge, “runaway bride” Jennifer Wilbanks on Thursday pleaded no contest to a felony charge of making false statements to police. “I’m truly sorry for my actions,” Wilbanks told Gwinnett County Judge Ronnie Batchelor.

The judge sentenced her to two years of probation, 120 hours of community service and ordered that she continue mental health treatment. But Batchelor denied a request from Wilbanks’ attorney, Lydia Sartain, that the charge be considered a misdemeanor.

The arrangement apparently was a plea deal, in which a misdemeanor charge of making a false police report was dismissed.

The punishment sounds about right to me, although I’d have prefered to have seen her fined to cover at least some part of the expenses she generated as well.


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James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College and a nonresident senior fellow at the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.


  1. David Caskey says:

    I was looking over some medical records on indigent patients when I began to consider the plight of this poor woman. She is obviously sick and her illness cost the taxpayer $40,000+. Yet as I look at the records in front of me, these people are indigent patients that are being placed in the hospital over and over again predominently because of their desire to smoke, use drugs and not follow any simblance of modifying their high risk lives for illness. The average hospitalization cost the taxpayer $40,000+. So what is the difference in the patients I see daily, versus this poor, sick woman??

  2. James Joyner says:

    Well, for starters, smoking and drinking alcohol are not crimes; filing a false police report is.

  3. FredW says:

    Yes, but 98% (or more) of the expense incured was before any police report was filed. If she had just shown up in ABQ and said “I needed a break” then just as much money would have been spent and no ccrime would have been committed.

    If this had happened in a suburb of Columbus,OH it would have been less of a deal. But since it was in CNN’s backyard they paid particular attention to it.

  4. Richard Gardner says:

    So she is now going to be a felon, and her right to vote is revoked. What is accomplished here?

  5. John Rogersen says:

    What will be accomplished is that a crime will be justly punished.

    Secondarily, perhaps other wackjob brides (or *anyone* who is tempted to concoct a wild story to attempt to cover up the real reason they did something) will perhaps be less likely to do the same thing while lying to the police, and causing a great waste of time and money at taxpayers’ expense.

    To let her completely off with no consequences would be the much greater crime. Sure, she apparently has mental dysfunction; this felony conviction and probation is probably a fitting sentence, but it’s folly to believe the slate should be wiped clean. How would you like it if someone you love suffered from the lack of police availability because so many resources were in use looking for JW?

  6. Jeanne says:

    I would say that accepting a half-million dollars for her story puts Jennifer out of the “this poor woman” catagory, which she was never in considering that her family was the richest in town. Feel sorry for someone who deserves it. Jennifer had the benefit of parental guidance, health insurance, and the best medical care available. She’s nothing but a 2-time convicted criminal for shoplifting, and now she’s profiting on a costly legal prefabricated tale to avoid a wedding. This is what comes of indulging your children – NOTE to her parents.