DULUTH, Ga. — An advocacy group for Hispanics is demanding an apology from the bride-to-be who skipped town days before her lavish wedding and falsely claimed she had been abducted by a Hispanic man. The president of the group Hispanics Across America said Jennifer Wilbanks' cover story before admitting to a case of cold feet endangered Hispanic males across the country and contributed to bias.
"While I understand this is a troubled woman, we cannot and will not stand for any racial stereotyping of Hispanics as criminals and thugs," Fernando Mateo said.
Wilbanks, 32, touched off an extensive search last week when she vanished from her suburban Atlanta home days before her wedding and took a bus to Las Vegas. She then went to Albuquerque, N.M., where she called 911 and her fiance late Friday, giving them a phony story about being kidnapped by a Hispanic man and a white woman.
Prosecutors are investigating possible criminal charges against Wilbanks for falsely reporting a crime, and the city of Duluth is considering a lawsuit to recoup the estimated $40,000 to $60,000 cost of searching for her.
Gwinnett County District Attorney Danny Porter said he has also received numerous complaints from members of the community about Wilbanks' false accusation against a fictitious Hispanic male.
"They're asking, 'What would've happened if the Albuquerque police had located this fake couple?' An unknown Hispanic male all of a sudden becomes the bogeyman," he said.
In addition to demanding an apology, Mateo said he would like Wilbanks to perform community service in a Hispanic neighborhood as part of any possible punishment.
Meanwhile, Wilbanks' fiance has said he still wants to marry her, but his father has advised his son to take it slow.
Working on public statement
John Mason said Monday in an interview with Fox News' "Hannity & Colmes" show that he still wants to walk down the aisle with Wilbanks. The guilt she is dealing with "has got to be consequence enough to me," he said.
Mason's father, Claude Mason, said Tuesday on ABC's "Good Morning America" that he has told his son: "Take it slow and if this is what you still want, we're behind you."
Asked if he would be concerned if the couple heads into another big wedding, the elder Mason said: "I have mixed emotions about that. I think the wedding plans got a bit out of hand, but I couldn't say a whole lot. I'm the father of the groom."
John Mason said that Wilbanks was working on a public statement. No one answered the door Tuesday at the Duluth home shared by Wilbanks and Mason, or at the home of Wilbanks' parents.
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