John Mason received an Ethics Hero award last year for sticking by his fiancée, “runaway bride” Jennifer Wilbanks. She had vanished days before their lavish wedding, you will recall, setting off a nationwide manhunt and costing her close-knit community both grief and dollars. After she finally surfaced in Las Vegas and eventually admitted that she had lied to police about being abducted, most of the country was stunned that Mason refused to call off the relationship. “‘Just because we haven’t walked down the aisle, just because we haven’t stood in front of 500 people and said our I do’s, my commitment before God to her was the day I bought that ring and put it on her finger and I’m not backing down from that now,” Mason told Fox’s Sean Hannity at the time.
Well, Mason and Wilbanks stayed together long enough to get a pile of money from an agent who wanted to peddle her story for a book or movie, they bought a house together, and finally went kaput as a couple in May before ever walking down that aisle. Now Wilbanks is suing Mason for half the house and has added a claim for another $250,000, claiming that he abused the power of attorney she gave him to handle her finances.
It’s possible that Mason only stayed with Wilbanks in the first place to get a share of the money when she cashed in. But the Scoreboard will give him the benefit of the doubt, and hold fast to its initial conviction that he behaved ethically and got clobbered for it. That happens sometimes. The ethical act isn’t always the smart thing, the logical thing, or safe thing to do. The Scoreboard hopes that as his finances are ravaged by lawyer fees and litigation costs, Mason will still hold on to his ideals about love, commitment, and the meaning of the marriage vows. But it will be hard to blame him if he concludes that the best way to handle a “runaway bride” is to run away.