Wednesday, May 25, 2005 12:33 PM EDT
The Associated Press
By DANIEL YEE
Runaway bride Jennifer Wilbanks was indicted Wednesday on two charges of lying to police about being kidnapped _ counts that could mean up to six years in prison.
The 32-year-old woman faces one felony count making of false statement and one misdemeanor count of making a false police report.
The felony charge carries a maximum sentence of five years in prison, and the misdemeanor up to a year in jail if she is convicted. She could also face up to $11,000 in fines and be ordered to reimburse authorities for the cost of the search.
"We believe this is a reasonable next step in the case. We believe the grand jury made the right decision," said Gwinnett County District Attorney Danny Porter.
"At some point you just can't lie to the police," he said.
A bench warrant will be issued for Wilbanks' arrest within the next few days, he added. He said he was confident arrangements could be made for Wilbanks to turn herself in. No court date has been set.
The indictment does not rule out a plea agreement to lesser charges, Porter said. Authorities had said they were talking to the Wilbanks family about a possible deal.
The office of Wilbanks' attorney, Lydia Sartain, said no statements will be issued until next week. Sartain has said she does not think Wilbanks committed a crime in Gwinnett County. Authorities in Albuquerque had said they would not charge Wilbanks.
"The citizens of the county will be ill-served by an attempted prosecution," Sartain said before Wednesday's charges were announced. She did not return a phone call seeking further comment Wednesday morning.
Wilbanks, a nurse, had claimed she was going for a jog before she disappeared from her Duluth home on April 26, four days before her planned wedding.
While Georgia authorities looked for her, Wilbanks took a bus to Las Vegas and then Albuquerque, N.M. There, she called authorities with a story about having been abducted and sexually assaulted.
But under questioning, she recanted and said she fled Georgia because of unspecified personal issues. She returned to Georgia on April 30, the day she was to have been married in a ceremony with 14 bridesmaids and groomsmen.
Her family has said she entered a medical facility after her return but did not say where.
Her disappearance prompted a massive search and nationwide publicity. City, county and state officials spent about $50,000 looking for her.
Several state and county agencies already said they will not ask her to reimburse them for a total of $10,000 spent in additional search costs. But the city of Duluth still is seeking repayment of about $40,000 and Mayor Shirley Lassetter said her city attorney has been in negotiations with Sartain.