Sherri Papini, a mother of two, ditched her family and faked a kidnapping to be with her ex-boyfriend – but her fairytale didn’t end well. Now, she will spend a year and a half in prison for faking the crime and lying to the FBI about the case. The fake kidnapping narrative prompted a three-week, multi-state search until she was found on Thanksgiving Day in 2016.
Papini, 40, admitted staging the abduction. She is forced to pay more than $300,000 in restitution as part of a plea bargain.
While prosecutors wanted Papini to serve the full eight months in prison, probation authorities and her lawyer had advised that she spend one month in incarceration and seven months in supervised home detention. However, Senior U.S. District Judge William Shubb claimed that he chose an 18-month sentence in order to deter other offenders.
The judge stated that he took into account both “the sheer number of people who were impacted” and how serious the conduct was. Law enforcement officials who looked for her, the neighborhood that supported her for four years, those who experienced dread as a result of her fabricated account of being kidnapped by two Hispanic women, and the Latino community that was unjustly treated with mistrust were among them.
Paraphrasing the argument made by the prosecution in a court document, Shubb stated, “The nation is watching.” “They need to be sent the right message…. We have to make sure crime doesn’t pay.”
Papini didn’t speak to reporters. Many people expressed their support and even hugged the woman outside the courtroom. Her ex-husband’s sister openly supported Papini, despite the fact that her brother filed for divorce and claimed custody of their children following the horrifying deception, reported by NPR.
Papini’s actions, which entailed months of careful planning before she vanished and temporarily abandoned her children, who are the objects of her greatest love, have never been adequately explained by her, according to defense attorney William Portanova. Even independent mental health professionals were perplexed by the woman’s odd behavior that didn’t seem to fit into any standard diagnosis.
Portanova claimed it was caused by “what sounds like a fierce storm that was going on for a long time inside her head” but added that she has since changed and is a different person.
Before being sentenced, Papini spoke to the judge briefly and sobbed while doing so.
“I’m so sorry to the many people who have suffered because of me,” she said.
“I am guilty, your honor. I am guilty of lying. I am guilty of dishonor,” she said. “What is done cannot be undone. It cannot be erased.”
Both U.S. Attorney Veronica Alegria and the judge saw Papini’s comments as yet another way to deceive people.
“Miss Papini is a manipulator,” Shubb said. “It’s not as if Miss Papini has seen the error of her ways….If she had not been caught, she’d still be living the lie.”
The most alarming aspect was that Papini was covered in bindings, had burns on her left forearm, a swollen nose, bruises and rashes all over her body, and marks from ligatures on her wrists and ankles. All of the wounds were self-inflicted and created to support her story.