Sherri Papini kidnapping hoax gets her sentenced to 18 months in prison: NPR
SACRAMENTO, Calif. — A Northern California mother of two was sentenced Monday to 18 months in prison for faking her own kidnapping so she could return to a former boyfriend’s house, leading to a three-week search of several states before resurfacing. Thanksgiving in 2016.
Sherri Papini, 40, pleaded guilty last spring to arranging the kidnapping and lying to the FBI about it. As part of a plea bargain, she is required to pay more than $300,000 in restitution.
Probation officers and Papini’s lawyer had recommended that she spend a month in police custody and seven months in supervised home confinement, while prosecutors wanted her to serve the eight months behind bars. But Senior US District Judge William Shubb said he opted for an 18-month sentence to deter others.
The judge said he had taken into account the seriousness of the offense and “the large number of people affected”. They included law enforcement officers who searched for her, the community who believed her for four years, those who lived in fear because of her false story of abduction by two Hispanic women, and the Latino community. which was falsely viewed with suspicion.
“The nation is watching,” Shubb said, paraphrasing prosecutors’ argument in a court filing. “You have to send them the right message. … We have to make sure crime doesn’t pay.”
Papini quietly replied, “Yes, sir”, when the judge asked her if she had understood the sentence. Previously, she held back tears as she made a statement in court accepting responsibility and admitting guilt.
She did not speak to reporters as she was surrounded by more than a dozen supporters outside the courtroom, some of whom hugged her. They included her husband’s sister, with whom she lived, she separated from her husband, who filed for divorce and sought custody of their children after pleading guilty.
Speaking briefly outside the courthouse after the hearing, defense lawyer William Portanova called it “a fair sentence, even if it is longer than we would have liked”.
His client was ordered to report to federal prison on November 8. Shubb ordered him to serve 36 months of post-release supervision, a year longer than probation officers had requested. Both counts carried a maximum sentence of 25 years in prison.
“Obviously the court did what they thought was right, and frankly, it’s hard to argue with the sentencing judge,” Portanova said. “I’m not really surprised because I understand the court’s analysis. … To the extent that the judge wanted to emphasize the wrongfulness of his actions and tattoo it more on his soul, he sure did.”
Papini never offered a rational explanation for his behavior, which included months of careful planning before disappearing and temporarily abandoning his most precious children, Portanova said. His actions have even baffled independent mental health experts who have said they don’t conform to any typical diagnosis.
Portanova blamed “what feels like a fierce storm that had been raging in her head for a long time,” but said she was now a changed woman.
Papini offered no explanation during his brief tearful comments to the judge before his sentencing.
“I’m so sorry for the many people who suffered because of me,” she said.
“I am guilty, your honor. I am guilty of lying. I am guilty of dishonor,” she said. “What’s done cannot be undone. It cannot be erased.”
But Judge and Assistant U.S. Attorney Veronica Alegria said his comments were just manipulation.
“At this point, she would say and do anything to lessen her punishment,” Alegria told Shubb. “This matter is serious and there has been very real damage to society.”
“There was a community that lived in fear. (…) Miss Papini took money from real victims,” Alegria said. “Victims of crime may not believe they will be believed by law enforcement because of this hoax.”
Shubb said Papini’s case “is unique to say the least,” with little precedent to guide him in sentencing.
“Miss Papini is a manipulator,” Shubb said. “It’s not like Miss Papini saw the error of her ways… If she hadn’t been caught, she would still be living the lie.”
Portanova said in a pre-sentence court filing that Papini was ‘chasing a crazy fantasy’ when she fled to a former boyfriend in Southern California, nearly 600 miles north. south of his home in Redding. He dropped her off along Interstate 5 about 150 miles from her home after she said she wanted to go home.
Passers-by found her with ties all over her body, a swollen nose, a fuzzy “mark” on her right shoulder, bruises and rashes all over her body, ligature marks on her wrists and ankles and burns on the left forearm. All wounds were self-inflicted and were designed to support his story.
The injuries were a manifestation of his “unstable masochism” and “self-inflicted penance”, Portanova wrote. And once she started, “every lie demanded another lie.”
After his arrest in March, Papini received more than $30,000 in psychiatric treatment for anxiety, depression and post-traumatic stress disorder. She billed the state victim compensation fund for the treatment and was ordered to reimburse it as part of her restitution.
As part of the plea deal, she agreed to reimburse law enforcement more than $150,000 for search costs for her and her non-existent kidnappers, and to repay the $128,000 she received. on disability benefits since his return.
But Shubb said it was unlikely she would ever be able to repay the money “unless she won the lottery”.