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If Your Spouse Behaved Badly, Would you Turn Him In?

Pause with me, if you will, and imagine the unimaginable – your servicemember spouse in embroiled in an activity that falls somewhere between “moral grey area” and “downright wrong.” Misusing funds. Selling on Ebay that thing he forgot to turn in at work. Whatever.

Do you keep your mouth shut and keep your pay and benefits – or do you turn him (or her) in and risk a court marital followed by reduction or even elimination of pay and benefits?

This is the question Kris Johnson must’ve asked herself before sending an email blowing the whistle on her now estranged husband, Col. James H. Johnson III. Johnson according to the story …

… Is charged with six violations of the Uniform Code of Military Justice and 27 specifications or counts, including bigamy, adultery, fraud, forgery and making false statements, all in connection with an illicit affair he conducted with an Iraqi woman.

He is also charged with wrongful cohabitation, failure to obey an order and conduct unbecoming an officer, according to the charge sheet. A previous administrative investigation found that he’d neglected his command to further his love affair with the Iraqi woman whom he’d met on deployment, according to an Army 15-6 investigation, the administrative precursor to the criminal case against him.

You’re going to have to read the whole story to learn about the really mind-blowing stuff this guy is accused of. But that’s not what I want to focus on here. I want to talk about his wife.

Kris Johnson turned her husband in via email after learning that he was living with another woman, an Iraqi with whom he had a long time affair, in his quarters in Vicenza, Italy. If you’ve ever been there (or heard anything about it) you know that the Vicenza military community is itty-bitty. If the commander, no doubt already surrounded in drama, has a new lady living in his house folks are going to talk. And those same people are going to tell his wife.

When she found out he was living with a new woman she had long known about the affair. She had also suspected, the story says, his misuse of funds and his other shenanigans. But she loved the Army life and she didn’t want to hurt his career, so she kept her mouth shut.

The last straw was his blatant cohabitation in front of everyone – like he was daring the world to call him on it.

By taking the dare and turning him, the story says, she will lose a total of about $4 million in pay, health and education benefits if he is convicted. Like she notes, it’d be easy to call her actions those of a woman scorned – but no amount of retribution is worth that kind of money. She sent the email because it was the right thing to do, she says.

So pause with me and remove the emotionally charged adultery and bigamy facts from this picture for a second. Let’s pretend that we’re dealing with our own spouses, and they are “only” committing fraud, etc. The obvious right thing to do is to tell someone – even though it means you would have nothing – and hope that it all works out for you in the end. But that’s also the difficult thing.

What would you do? Would you protect yourself and your military community from the hit morale takes when someone is revealed to have behaved so, so badly … or would you step up, step out and hope for the best?

About Amy Bushatz

Amy is the managing editor of Military.com’s spouse and family blog SpouseBuzz.com. A journalist by trade, Amy also covers spouse and family news for Military.com where she is an Associate Editor. An Army wife and mother of two, Amy has been featured as a subject matter expert on NPR and in the New York Times. Follow her on twitter @amybushatz.

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