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 the Author

Amy Bushatz
Amy is the editor in chief 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 the managing editor of spouse and family content. An Army wife and mother of two, Amy has been featured as a subject matter expert on CNN.com, NPR, Fox News, NBC, CBS, ABC and BBC as well as in the New York Times, Wall Street Journal and Washington Post. Follow her on twitter @amybushatz.

38 Comments on "If Your Spouse Behaved Badly, Would you Turn Him In?"

  1. To me it's a no-brainer: do what Kris did. It takes a large amount of courage and resilience to make that decision and to follow through on it, but she, without a doubt, did the right thing!

    • She"s an idiot ! She killed her own Golden Goose..!

      • Technoweapon | June 9, 2012 at 8:44 am |

        There are more important things here than money. Self respect. Pride. Honor. Dignity. Courage. I can go on and on. How trivial and irrelevant money is when compared to such things.

  2. She's a bird brain..! I'm sure she never thought about just walking out on him with the children and if they were married for more than ten years while he was on active duty she is allowed 50% of his retirement pay plus medical benefits for herslf and the children. I mean like what does a Col (0-6) pull in after like 24 to 30 years of service when he retires…..about $7000 a month….she could have gotton half for the rest of her life and been set, now the children will suffer…! Talk about a kee jerk reaction to the facts. ****What a stupid woman…!!!****

    • There is no guarantee that she would get his retirement. First, the divorce was already very messy. Second, his divorce attorney could easily use his retirement as a bargaining chip … i.e., if she gave up all rights to his retirement pay then he would pay for college for the two children; or if she gave up all rights to his retirement pay, then he would see to it that the children still received other benefits. His divorce attorney could easily arrange so that she gives up everything … 50% retirement pay, healthcare for her and the kids, and any promise for him to pay for college costs. I'm a paralegal and have worked for divorce attorneys for years, to include divorces for military couples. You'd be very surprised to learn what kind of things divorce attorneys will use when it comes to negotiating, and the press has already stated that the divorce is very messy. Also, retiring at 30 years is only 75% of your pay (not 100% as some might assume). Further, it's not ten years as you assume. In order for the spouse to receive FULL benefits, pursuant to 10 U.S. Code §1072(2)(F), a former spouse of a servicemember is defined as a dependent, and therefore entitled to all military benefits and installation privileges, including medical, commissary, military exchanges (PX) IF she is married to the servicemember at least 20 years, the service member had at least 20 years of creditable service, and there were at least a 20-year overlap between the marriage and the military service. (the 20/20/20 rule). What she did was HARD. He was costing the government thousands of dollars and no one else was stopping him. Sometimes you must do the harder right than the easier wrong. She knew someone had to stop him, even if she was the one to do it and EVEN if she knew she could lose all benefits. If a divorce is messy, there is no guarantee that she'd get ANY of his retirement, much less 50%.

    • Hector,

      She could be awarded up to 50% of his reitrement. The Army hast left it to the states to decide how much a spouse gets. not to exceed 50 %.

    • Hector is the bird brain. After 10 years of marriage, the spouse is entilted to a certain percentage of the pay, not 50%. And, the children get medical and other benefits, not the spouse. Take it from me, been there, done that. The children get support, as well. I did not turn mine in because of our children. He needed to support them. If he lost everything, I would have been totally responsible. Which I was, any way. But the financial help was there, that counts for a whole lot.

  3. I have a hard time believing that her prime motivator wasn't retribution. I mean what a slap in the face to have your husband living with another woman in plain sight of everyone around him. It seems to me that if one is angry enough and has determined that the resulting damage is tolerable or can be overcome, then it would be easier to drop the dime. Me, I'd probably leave him, divorce him and let his own stupidity drown him while taking him for every dime I could get.

    • I'm with you Mel. I would of done things a bit differently. But then again I'm always looking out for number 1 ;)

  4. You are right Mel, Divorce him, take him for what you can… Then report him to the military courts… This crap happens on a daily basis in the military. It does not matter if you are wearing a star, brass, E-9 down to a private… the stuff happens….

  5. Technoweapon | June 9, 2012 at 8:38 am |

    You'd have to be cold as ice and way too infatuated with the whole right and wrong thing to turn your spouse in for petty crimes. But if it's something heavy or detrimental to your health/well being then it's time for a game changing conversation. If you can't fix it, or if it's just that extreme then, yes, go for it and drop the hammer.

    There are plenty more law abiding and moral-respecting people out there to hook up with. So no worries.

  6. Tips From The Homefront | June 9, 2012 at 9:31 am |

    I agree with Hector and Mel. After living through an event that changed my husband's career and having to survive those punishments that effected our entire family, I wouldn't turn him in until I had a divorce and a secure future for my children.

  7. If you remove the details from the story then it’s not the same story. She told because what he did directly hurt her. I can’t believe he did that to her, it a shame how some men treat thier wives and then expect no consequences. In this situation I would have told. It’s not about money, I have my own degree and make my own money. It’s interesting to see how many “thirsty golddiggers” are commenting. But if my husband was dying something else wrong like misappropriating funds or something then **** no I wouldn’t tell. Why would I destroy my own family. I would however threaten to tell, and give him **** until he stopped or turned himself in because that’s not acceptable in our household, and I wouldn’t let it keep happening under my nose.

  8. My intent for wanting to take every dime I could get is not to be a gold digger but to damage his future life with the other woman. Why would I want his future to be successful and happy after my world was shattered by betrayal and by being treated like a piece of garbage thrown out to the curb. As you have pointed out over several posts that the circumstances of the misdoing determines whether or not the spouse should tell and it seems to me that whatever the woman decides does not reveal weakness but the resulting conclusion from an agonizing inner battle that weighed circumstances that aren't necessarily apparent to those who would judge them.

  9. She did the right thing.

  10. On one hand you do not want to risk losing something that may be keeping your family afloat. On the other hand you have the moral issues. Even something so small as stealing something from work shows lack of moral responsibility. If he's stealing, and lying to his employers just think of what he may be lying to you about.

    While something petty as taking a pen from work is not always a moral conundrum, something like cohabiting with a mistress is very serious. If your husband is willfully breaking code, and neglecting his station he should have the book thrown at him, whatever the cost. Personal responsibility should be held to the highest standards, and what this man has done is immoral, neglectful, and not only disgraceful but dishonorable. The Army is better than this, and we should have men and women who exude the standards through and through, not men and women who only see fit to use and abuse our military to benefit their own needs.

    Should this wife have done this? I can’t really say if it’s right or wrong. I am not in her shoes, and not under the stress she is in. However, this man is doing something so vulgar and blatant he thinks he can get away with it scot-free. It’s not fair to the Army, and the services members who give their lives doing the RIGHT thing.

  11. She lost crontrol kinda like him. Yes he's a "less than savory" dude but she should've considered the full outcome and detrimental effects. All she had to do was go to the finance or personnel department and show her still valid dependant I.D. and marriage certifacate and be re-enrolled in all Deers/Tri-Care, SBP programs and then move out and file for divorce. She's a dummy.!

    • That's not true!!! Even though she may still have a "valid" ID card, deers still require a POA or a signed form dated within 90 days by the active duty soldier and notarized…. If he had already removed her and added another woman, the wife was screwed either way!!!

    • oh yes- having the money and benefits makes it all better. WHAT? Clearly SHE was not her first concern- doing the right thing was.

  12. Everyone can say what they or she should have or have not done, but I don't realy think any of us can say for sure what we would have done until the situation presents itself.

    • I agree. Every realationship has shades of grey in it. Its hard to say w/any certainty.

  13. Time for new rules! Spouses & Children earn their benefits, Family members serve their country in many, many ways. No family member should have to give up their benefits in this case & others. I vote for a change now!

  14. This is a difficult question to answer. Obviously we all have moral indicators and need to choose the right or wrong way, but I'm shocked no one has mentioned that it really all depends on your relationship. If you are completely committed to your spouse and have a wonderful marriage, then how will "blowing the whistle" effect your relationship? Who cares about the benefits, if your service member is risking them then there is possibly something amiss in the relationship. If a spouse keeps their mouth shut in fear of loosing benefits, does that mean they aren't happily married, or they married for the wrong reasons? It sounds like Ms. Johnson only did the right thing to save face, if she truly cared to do the right thing, she would have done it when the misconduct started. I don't mean to pass judgement, but that is how it looks. I'm 100% committed to my husband and I can't say what I would do, my conscious and my heart would have to duke it out.

    Further more, the benefits are for service members who do the right thing, not for dependents. If a SM risks their career it is their fault. The Government is not responsible to care for us if there is breach of contract. Think of it this way, if you hired a housekeeper to clean twice a week and you found they'd stole from you, done a poor job cleaning or didn't meet your expectations, would you fire them and stop paying them? Would you continue to give them money because they had children relying on the paycheck and it wasn't the kids fault their mom did the wrong thing? The benefits are a perk to doing the right thing, they are not a right. If spouses want those benefits, then they should sign up and serve.

  15. GeorgiaGirl | June 10, 2012 at 7:10 pm |

    This is why I work full time and have a career of my own. I would absolutely do what Kris did. why? A moral compass isn't compartmentalized. If you are morally bankrupt- as this man obviously is- his self-indulgent arrogance more than likely pervades all of his decisions, including during war time. The decisions he makes in his delusions of grandeur brain could cost the lives of Soldiers during battle. I for one couldn't live with myself knowing I said and did nothing to prevent that probability. I've been a military spouse since 1994 and have had full-time job the entire time. I will never compromise my values for money and I take steps to ensure that no matter what happens, I can support myself without depending on the military or anyone else. To imply she should have kept her mouth shut for any reason and calling the Army her golden goose is nauseating. Sorry- I don't prostitute my mind, body, morals or principle for anything ot anyone. And no self-respecting person should.

    • makessensetome | June 10, 2012 at 10:42 pm |

      Give me a break with the" That's why you keep a job" nonsense. It's a moot point. When a circumstance arises you deal with it as best you can with the resources you have, full time worker or not. If you choose to work for your own reasons then great be cool with that but don't keep trying to find justification for it. Some choose not to work for definite reasons. Others choose to work for definite reasons. Get comfortable with your choice and stop injecting it randomly. This woman's husband was a scum bag. She would still have been hurt by his actions having had a career or none. And just so you know monetary support is part of a marriage, something spouses should give one another. You are not selling yourself if only one spouse works. I know that wasn't the point of your post, but wow what you wrote comes across the wrong way.

  16. This work both ways.
    Some times the wife creates the problems and therefore when the marrige does not work the best thing to do is to get rid of her.
    Divorce is the best tool.


  17. It doesn’t take much to turn in your spouse when you have been betray. It would impress me if, she turned him in when things were great with both of them. I don't buy this story. What he did was wrong, but please don't give her a moral medal…..

  18. Rowan Blaine | June 12, 2012 at 11:11 pm |

    Mu husband is a Navy Seal and was sending naked photos of himself to females and makes. He also was answering ads on Craig’s List and telling people about his training and missions. I turned him in and his command did nothing. I had the emails and the pictures a ton if proof and his chief said what he did on the Internet was his private business.

    • Read my experience… (SabM is my user name)
      My husband was on match dot com, craigslist, seeing women while deployed, adicted to some very disgusting porn i dont even want to mention, living with another female and bringing more home while sleeping with his gf….

    • If he is telling people about his training and missions over the internet that's a possible violation of UCMJ. If this were my situation, I would immediately hire an attorney who is a former JAG attorney, with many years of military law experience. I would also keep knocking (banging) on doors until someone listened to me with regard to his violation of OPSEC. I would keep working my way up the chain.

  19. She did the right thing, i wish i wouldve had the guts. All for the sake of his career, our children, and honestly , health insurance…
    He cheated on me since the moment we married 14 years this year), then i left him(we separated 3 years ago), he raped me, harassed me, broke into my email account, broke his way into the plce i was renting, stole some evidence i had against him."yes, he did something worse i dont even want to mention…. And oh, yes, moved in with his girlfriend (for over a year) into base housing. Then, on top of all, went to court and had the judge grant him child support, while I barely make it from paycheck to paycheck with my flex-no benefits job….
    The kids, yes, it was the hardest thing, but i left them with him because he provides them more economical stability. Legal on base wouldnt help me, and Local legal aid didnt want to help me either…

    Everybody is so quick to judge. I am not from this country, and i dont have family anywhere near me to help me. Friends? Nah, i have acquaintances. The best thing i did, though, was find a good cognitive therapist. Suicide was considered, but that wasnt fair to my kids.
    Im alone and barely making it, but nothing is better than mental health and not living with someone who psychologically drains you.
    My children are the reason why i am still here, i am not going anywhere without them, so It is imperative I stay close.

  20. I am in a difficult situation, but not quite as bad as this. Since we have been married the last 3 years, I have never received housing allowance when we are separated. (during deployments and PCS moves) Right now, I have been apart from him for a year since he has PCS’d to outside the US. I was supposed to go with him, but he told me the ‘orders were messed up and I wasn’t put on them’. A year later, it still hasn’t been fixed and I still am not receiving housing/living assistance. We have major bills that I cannot cover by myself with my income. I have been living with family this whole year, waiting for him to do something. I recently found that he was misusing his money and large sums were being spent (without good cause…I still haven’t found where exactly the money has gone). So not only am I not receiving financial help, he is spending it. Meanwhile, the car payment is behind and my insurance has been cancelled. Not to mention the thousands in bills I’ve had to charge since he decided to stop paying them for the last 4 months. I found out that he has been lying about many many things to me. There is no other woman as far as I have been able to find out. He needs help mentally for PTSD/ADD I do know. I am committed to this marriage. I want this to work out. We have yet to go to one counselling session since being married because we are always apart. I know that by contacting his chain of command, I am putting his career in jeopardy. I do not want to do that even if we end up divorced. I have appealed to everything I know in him to please do the right thing in our marriage. It falls on deaf ears. I have a family life counselor and countless people telling me to divorce/save myself and get his command involved. I don’t want to before I try everything I can. My next step is to call the chaplain and ask for help getting to his duty station since I cannot afford even half of the flight cost myself. He refuses to consider having me move to his duty station or even to visit at this point. (which makes me that much more determined to go) I have my backup plan for my life and family support (even from his parents) if everything goes south. I just don’t know what to do anymore. So hurt that this is the man I was supposed to spend the rest of my life with could care less if I’m being taken care of. I don’t even know if I can ever trust him again at this point.

  21. numnum757 | June 13, 2012 at 5:45 pm |

    She should have just divorced him. I agree with another commenter this was a knee jerk reaction to finding out he was living with another woman. It stated she had known about the affair for some time but she "like the army life" too much. That screams to me pay and benefits. Well now her and her children arent going to have anything. The truth would have caught up to him in the end, karma is alive and well. She was just jealous and hurt and what she ended up doing was cutting off her nose despite her face and now she has taken her children down with her. Always let the water cool before making such rash decisions.

  22. 757, you are absolutely right ! She had a knee jerk reaction to the situation….always let things cool down for a more complete evaluation of the matter. Yes she will lose everything and her children too for being a stool pigeon ….remember those shirts that said…STOP SNITCHING. She lost out on like about $3500 a month (her half) to help her live a reasonable life…….again……..She's a dummy..!

  23. But, yeah, my ex got put up for court marshall, after several charge sheets and arrests because he kept on violating the restrainging order by going to her house or bringing her to the barracks. He ended up making a plea bargain for an administrative separation and an NJP in lieu of court marshall. He got reduced by two ranks and discharged. It was rough for us, because he didn't pay child support for months, and we lost our health insurance, but to this day I stand by my decision. Every service member is aware of the UCMJ, and they know when they're breaking it. It's there for a reason.

  24. YellowRoseOTx | September 13, 2012 at 4:16 pm |

    Duh, what about setting the example for her children about right and wrong? Maybe she didn't want the dirty money? "Stop snitching" — wow, Hector, are you in grade school? He was breaking the law, multiple laws. She's a mom, and has to teach her children what's morally right and wrong. How does she do that if she looks the other way while Daddy breaks the law so she (mommy) can get a pay-off? I applaud her courage for doing the right thing.

  25. If my wife was envolved in criminal activity, I would certainly give her an opportunity to fix it or I would in fact turn her in. Then I would probably proceed with divorce papers.

  26. I would agree. Give the spouse an opportunity to make it right. If he/she refuses then you really have no alternative but to fix it or them.

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