Prosecutor Faces a Tough Question

To charge or not to charge?

That is the question for the prosecutor in Duluth, Georgia: Should he file a misdemeanor, or even a felony charge against "runaway bride" Jennifer Wilbanks (search) for leading police on a wild goose chase?

Based on the e-mails you all sent in today, I'd say you're about evenly split. The more forgiving comments sound like this:

Before we rush to judgment, it must first be determined her intent... If it was a half-witted ploy to escape the increasing pressures she had in facing a huge wedding into an influential family, then we need to show some MERCY...
—Thomas Spann

I find this idea of the bride having to pay the local government of Duluth back for the search is ridiculous! First, they (law enforcement staff) are getting paid to do this. While they may have incurred some overtime in the search, it is the local officials' decision to authorize that expense... leave the girl alone!
—Henry Morris, Atlanta, Georgia

Since when is it illegal for a 32-year-old woman to leave town unannounced? She didn't initiate the search and she did not misrepresent anything while the [police] expense was being incurred. If anyone is responsible for the cost it is the media, including Fox, that used the tragic situation as a 'reality' show to enhance their own profit.
—Tom Davis, Collierville, Tennessee

And here's someone who made an interesting point about Jennifer vs. two other people on Monday's “DaySide” — the teens rescued at sea:

If the runaway bride has to repay the city for its expenses, then, to be fair, so should the two boys who were stranded at sea for a week. They willfully ignored a small craft advisory order and put out to sea... it seems as though the boys caused far more expense... than the runaway bride.
—Brent Owens, Raleigh, North Carolina

But there are just as many e-mails that say Jennifer needs to be punished:

I live in Duluth, Georgia, in the same neighborhood as Jennifer Wilbanks. She should be held accountable for her actions. This incident caused fear in the community that we had an attacker on our streets. Also the useless effort to find her caused great upheaval here... Our police were pulled away from other duties for this case. She owes us a complete explanation and restitution, especially if she planned this.
—J.K., Duluth, Georgia

As a resident of North Carolina traveling to Georgia to assist with the search... we were extremely upset when we heard she had made up the whole story! ... We feel like she should face charges as well as reimburse the city of Duluth! While she is at it she can send us reimbursement for $100.00 we spent on gas to get there!...

...I do not believe Miss Wilbanks could possibly think no one would be searching for her... An example must be set, so this does not happen again in the future.
— Jamie, Oxford, Mississippi

How about community service? Has anyone said that? The communities came together and helped [when] they went out looking for her. She can help out and give back to the communities!...
—M., Ohio

All good points. In the meantime, we've got a couple of legal cases we're watching for Tuesday. Dennis Rader (search), the man police call the BTK strangler, will likely enter a plea in court. And the 4th Circuit Court may render a decision on the 13-year-old pregnant girl in Florida who is in the custody of the state and wants an abortion. As you know, the state officials who are charged with her care have gotten a temporary court order to stop her from aborting her 14-week-old fetus.

See you Tuesday.


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