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Runaway Bride Gets Two Years' Probation

June 03, 2005|From Associated Press

LAWRENCEVILLE, Ga. — Wearing her engagement ring and walking at her fiance's side, Jennifer Wilbanks made it to the courthouse on time Thursday. But she wasn't there to say "I do."

Instead, the 32-year-old bride-to-be who skipped town before her wedding day tearfully pleaded no contest to faking her own abduction.

"I'm truly sorry for my actions and I just want to thank Gwinnett County and the city of Duluth," Wilbanks said.

Judge Ronnie Batchelor sentenced her to two years of probation and 120 hours of community service as part of a plea bargain on a charge of making a false statement. He also ordered her to continue mental health treatment and pay the sheriff's office $2,550.

That is in addition to the $13,250 the runaway bride previously agreed to pay the city of Duluth, Ga., to help cover the overtime costs incurred in searching for her.

As well, she was indicted last week on charges of making a false statement and making a false police report. She could be sentenced to as much as six years in prison and be fined $11,000 if convicted.

"She's done everything that we would ask of her," said her lawyer, Lydia Sartain. "She has accepted responsibility."

Wilbanks' relatives and her fiance, John Mason, had no comment.

Dist. Atty. Danny Porter called the plea "a good resolution of the matter under all of the facts of the case and taking into consideration Ms. Wilbanks' prior criminal record." She was convicted of shoplifting during the 1990s.

Wilbanks disappeared from her Duluth home April 26, four days before she was to have been married in a lavish ceremony with 600 guests and 28 attendants. She cut her hair and climbed on a bus to Las Vegas and then Albuquerque, N.M.

She called police three days later, claiming she had been abducted and sexually assaulted. Under questioning, she recanted and said she had fled because of personal problems.

After returning home, Wilbanks underwent psychiatric treatment at an unspecified facility.

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