Runaway Bride, Part Deux

So, there have been a lot of comments to this post about whether or not "the runaway bride" should be prosecuted. I expect that we'll see in the next few weeks whether or not charges are brought.

Quite a few people have raised the issue of jurisdiction. My theory is that she could be prosecuted under what is called "particular effect jurisdiction" which is applicable when a particular jurisdiction suffers a concrete and identifiable injury (such as Georgia did, in incurring the costs of the search), and the effect on the jurisdiction where the alleged crime occur is limited (here, New Mexico).

Certainly, by calling 911 and reporting that she was kidnapped outside Atlanta, she should have contemplated that her phone call would have an effect outside New Mexico, and, in particular, in Atlanta. But this is unimportant. There's no need to prove an intent to harm a particular jurisdiction simply to have proper jurisdiction. The fact that her phone call mentioned Georgia and had an effect in Georgia is enough, whether or not it was intended.

(I'll admit, I don't know much about Georgia law so this is based on the general multistate law and in the area where I practice, but I think it's probably applicable.)

Further, the fact that a big and expensive search was mounted is unimportant. I think it's important in deciding whether or not the prosecutor should bring charges. Personally, it's important to me, and it will probably be important to a jury, but it's not important in whether or not a charges can be brought. But, to those of you saying "They searched for her anyway, not because she called!" That doesn't really matter. What matters is that she called 911 and told a lie. If they hadn't looked for her at all, and she called in a lie to 911, she could still be charged. To me, it makes it more despicable that she knew (and c'mon, she must have known!) that all of these people were looking for her, and instead of just calling home and saying "I'm ok, I just need some time away," she called 911 and not only told a lie but also claimed that she was kidnapped by a Hispanic male, but that's not the only reason she should be or can be charged.

Likewise, to those of you saying "She didn't tell them to look for her," the truth is that she did. Not at the beginning of their search, but that's immaterial. She reported it, and she told a really disgusting and racist lie.

There's been some question raised about whether she has (thus far) avoided prosecution by being "a pretty, young, white woman." I think that may be part of it, but I think the bigger part is that she's a pretty, young, wealthy woman from a well-to-do family. Like I said, I've seen false incident cases prosecuted that involved a lot less. At least one (that I can think of off the top of my head) was a pretty young white woman, but like all of my clients, she was poor.

Actually... the case that comes to mind was kind of interesting, so I'll share a war story... My client was a pretty, young (18 or 19 years old) white woman. She was pregnant with her boyfriend's baby. One day, the two of them get into a verbal argument while on the phone, and he says, among other things, "If you leave me, I'll steal that baby away from you as soon as the baby is born, and you'll never even see him." She hangs up on the boyfriend, and then calls her mother and asks "Could he really do that to me?" Her mother isn't sure, but thinks "Well, what's to stop him? If he gets visitation, he probably could." Her mother suggests that she report the threat to police "just in case." Her mother's thinking, I believe, was that, with this report on file, she would somehow be protected if he ever did something to the baby.

So, boyfriend gets arrested. Oops, I forgot to tell you, boyfriend was also parole. So, he gets arrested for the new case (harassment) and when you add that to a violation of parole (for getting arrested), boyfriend has to stay in jail. Well, girlfriend goes to visit boyfriend in jail, he cries, she agrees to take him back, he promises never to do anything to the baby, and she believes him. She starts to realize that she's going to need his help when the baby is born, too. (Because he'll make a great dad, of course.) He tells her, if you call the police back and tell them that you want to drop the charges, I can get out of jail. And she wants her boyfriend out of jail, especially as her due date approaches.

So, she goes back to the same police officer, and she tells the police officer that she wants to drop the charges. Well, too bad, it's out of my hands now, the officer says. The only way... he says... is if didn't really happen. So she says, "Ok, it didn't really happen." Ta da, she's put in handcuffs and arrested. The D.A. decides either she lied in her first report to the police (that he threatened her) or in her second report to the police (that he didn't threaten her). When I meet her at arraignments, she's "very" pregnant (she had the baby 2 weeks later). She was released, and in the end, she had to spend two days doing community service but avoided getting a criminal record.

Who did she hurt? Eh, I guess you could argue that she was trying to defraud the system that was keeping her boyfriend in jail. What resources did she waste? Maybe an hour of this officer's time. And what she did really wasn't all that ridiculous. In my opinion, what she did seems kind of reasonable, and certainly not "criminal." But, it's important for society to set a standard that it's not acceptable to falsely report crimes. Or maybe the D.A.s in my neck of the words are a lot more zealous and prosecute a lot of ridiculous cases. That's certainly possible too. In fact, I believe that if the runaway bride case took place here, not only would she have been arrested, I think she would have been charged with falsely reporting an incident and a hate crime enhancement (for adding the fact that her abductor was a Hispanic male).

Ok, I think I'm sick of the runaway bride now. We need a new news story.


  1. I'm kind of sick of the story, too, but I appreciate your take on it, and I like to hear "war stories." Thanks!


  2. Thanks for your take. I was confused by all of that.