This is a partial transcript from "On the Record," June 2, 2005, that has been edited for clarity.
GRETA VAN SUSTEREN, HOST: Tonight, the runaway bride appears in court and says she's sorry.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JENNIFER WILBANKS, RUNAWAY BRIDE: Your Honor, I'm truly sorry for my actions and I just want to thank Gwinnett County and the City of Duluth for all of their efforts. That's all.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
VAN SUSTEREN: Jennifer Wilbanks pleaded no contest to a felony charge in making a false statement to police. Wilbanks disappeared just days before her April wedding setting off a massive search.
She later lied to police about being kidnapped and sexually assaulted. She avoided jail time but was given two years probation, 120 hours of community service and was ordered to pay $2,500 to the sheriff's office.
Joining us in an exclusive interview from Atlanta is Jennifer Wilbanks' attorney Lydia Sartain, welcome Lydia.
LYDIA SARTAIN, ATTORNEY FOR JENNIFER WILBANKS: Thank you, Greta.
VAN SUSTEREN: All right, Lydia, let's get one thing straight out there. I read all sorts of things. You did not personally prosecute her in 1996, right? That was just a D.A. in your office.
SARTAIN: It was, Greta. My office prosecuted thousands of cases a year and she was just one of those that came through the office. I did not know her.
VAN SUSTEREN: All right. So — that's what I — I figured that, I mean because so many cases go through every D.A.'s office, so I figured that. No contest what does that mean in Georgia?
SARTAIN: She did not admit or deny the charge. It's not a — she pled under the First Offender Act, so once she completes her sentence then her case, her record is expunged and it will be as though she's had no felony conviction.
VAN SUSTEREN: What did the D.A. argue in terms of discussing — what does the community benefit from these — from putting her on probation for two years? I mean does the community get anything out of this?
SARTAIN: I think from the district attorney's standpoint they were trying to send a message or make an example out of my client. The community really did not — did not benefit from the felony prosecution.
However, Jennifer was willing to go ahead and go forward and enter a plea and demonstrate to the judge and to the community that she was truly remorseful and sorry about what had happened.
VAN SUSTEREN: How tough has this been on her? I mean, obviously we dogged it thinking she was perhaps even a murder victim in the beginning and the case certainly did grow from the media attention. I mean how tough has it been on her?
SARTAIN: As you might imagine, Greta, it's been a terrible ordeal. She was going through a lot of mental, emotional distress at the time she ran away from the wedding and then all of this crush of the media glare and all the publicity.
Today, for example, when she and I were walking out of the courtroom or out of the courthouse we could hardly walk because we were surrounded by people with these big cameras who are walking backwards. She was just trembling and shaking and was just, just very, very anxious about all of this.
VAN SUSTEREN: Well, you know, some people may think she "got off easy" because she got first offender treatment for a felony and probation. But the fact is there's an incredible amount of punishment associated with this that's separate from the charge isn't there?
SARTAIN: She lost her job. She was fired almost immediately. She had no immediate prospects for the future. She's been humiliated. Everybody knows all the sorted details about her past. They've seen all of her arrest and booking photos. I mean it's been a terribly humiliating process.
And people can be punished in a variety of ways, I mean. I don't know that there was anything really the court could have done to her that would have been any worse than what has already been done to her since she returned from New Mexico.
VAN SUSTEREN: You know everybody is curious about the wedding. I mean it may not be part of the lawsuit. It may have nothing to do with representing a client. But do you have any information, the wedding on, off, what can you tell us?
SARTAIN: Well, I know that there's a lot of interest in this and this has been in the public eye but that really is a private, personal matter and I think Jennifer and John would be the best ones to speak to that. I don't know...
VAN SUSTEREN: Any idea what the community service — go ahead.
SARTAIN: I'm sorry. I was just going to say I don't know what their plans are at this time.
VAN SUSTEREN: Any idea what the community service will actually be? I mean how is that determined in Georgia?
SARTAIN: What will happen, Greta, is in Georgia and particularly in Gwinnett County, she is on state probation and they have a probation officer who is responsible for coordinating community service.
And so, Jennifer will meet with that person and they will go over the particular — the items that are available for her and then they'll choose a community service project that would be both beneficial to the community and to Jennifer. And I might add that Jennifer very much is looking forward to doing community service.
VAN SUSTEREN: Do you think she got treated fairly in the system?
SARTAIN: I just wonder what would have happened to her had there not been so much publicity. I think a lot of the decisions by the district attorney were fueled by the publicity.
But when you set all that aside, and I understand what he was going through being a former district attorney myself, but I think at the end of the day I think the sentence was appropriate. I think Jennifer feels good about it. I think that the community has been well served. And it's just simply time to move forward.
VAN SUSTEREN: Well, you know, it's almost a damned if you do, damned if you don't if you're the D.A. No matter what you do you're going to have people unhappy with you. But sort of in the end it seems like all's well that ends well. It sounds sort of like it's a good resolution. Maybe it's over for everybody, Lydia.
SARTAIN: I think so. I'm hoping so, Greta, absolutely.
VAN SUSTEREN: All right, Lydia, thank you very much for joining us.
SARTAIN: Thank you.
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