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California woman gets 18 months for kidnapping prank

SACRAMENTO, Calif. –

A Northern California mother of two was sentenced to 18 months in prison Monday for faking her own kidnapping so she could get back with her ex-boyfriend, leading to a three-week search in multiple locations. state before her return on Thanksgiving Day 2016.

Sherri Papini, 40, pleaded guilty last spring to a plea agreement that required her to pay more than $300,000 in restitution.

Papini’s probation officers and attorneys recommended that she spend one month in custody and seven months in supervised home detention. But U.S. District Judge William Shubb said he chose the 18-month sentence to deter others.

The judge said he considered the severity of the offense and the “absolute number of people affected.”

Papini, who was emotional throughout the proceedings, replied softly, “Yes, sir,” when the judge asked if she understood the sentence. Before that, she had tears in her eyes as she presented in court to accept responsibility and admit her guilt.

“It’s painful,” said defense attorney William Portanova, who accepted the sentence as part of his rehabilitation.

Portanova previously said Papini is troubled and frustrated and that she should serve most of her sentence at home. However, prosecutors said she was required to serve a full term in prison. The judge ordered her to appear in prison on November 8.

“Papini’s kidnapping hoax was deliberate, well-planned and sophisticated,” prosecutors wrote in their court filing. And she still lies to people that she was kidnapped months after she pleaded guilty in April to staging the kidnapping and lying to the FBI about it, they wrote.

“The whole country is watching the outcome of the Papini sentencing hearing,” wrote Assistant U.S. Attorneys Veronica Alegria and Shelley Weger. “The public needs to know that there will be more than a slap on the wrist for financial fraud and making false statements to law enforcement, especially when those false claims lead to huge expenditures. considerable resources and involve innocent people.”

“Sweet and lovable on the outside, but capable of fierce deception… Papini’s chameleon personality makes her simultaneously yearn for the security of her family and the freedom of youth”, Portanova written in court application.

So “in pursuit of a wild fantasy,” Portanova said the married mother ran away to an ex-boyfriend in Southern California, nearly 600 miles (966 km) south of her home in Redding. . He dropped her off along Interstate 5, about 240 km (240 km) from her home after she said she wanted to go home.

Passers-by found her with ropes all over her body, a swollen nose, blurred “marks” on her right shoulder, bruises and rashes all over her body, marks on her wrists and ankles. , and burns on his left forearm. All of the injuries were self-inflicted and were designed to prove her story that she was abducted by gun by two Hispanic women while she was on the run.

The wounds were manifestations of “unstable masochism” and “self-inflicted penance,” Portanova wrote. And once she starts, “every lie requires another lie.”

Prosecutors say Papini’s ruse did not only harm herself and her family. They wrote: “An entire community believed the hoax and lived in fear that Hispanic women were roaming the streets to kidnap and sell women.

Prosecutors agreed to the lowest possible sentencing range in exchange for Papini’s plea. Expected to be incarcerated for eight to 14 months, down from the maximum 25 years for two counts.

She doesn’t give a good reason for her actions, which baffles even independent mental health professionals who say her actions don’t fit any typical diagnosis. .

“Papini’s painful early years have frozen her in countless ways,” Portanova said, arguing for home confinement. After her deception was finally revealed, he said, “It’s hard to imagine a more brutal public revelation of one’s broken inner self. At this point, punishment. was very heavy and felt like a life sentence.”

But prosecutors said “past trauma and mental health issues could not explain all of her actions.”

They wrote: “Papini’s plan to kidnap a prank was meticulous and started months ago – it wasn’t just a reaction to a traumatic childhood,” they wrote.

After herarrestin March, Papini received more than $30,000 worth of psychiatric care for anxiety, depression, and post-traumatic stress disorder. She billed the state’s victims’ compensation fund for the treatment, and must now pay it back as part of her compensation.

As part of the plea agreement, she agreed to reimburse law enforcement agencies for more than $150,000 for the cost of finding her and her non-existent kidnappers, and to reimburse $128,000. which she has received in disability payments since her return.

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This story has been corrected to reflect that the court filing cited beginning “Papini’s painful early years…” was written by her attorney, Portanova, not someone named Portantini.

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