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California mom Sherri Papini to be sentenced after pleading guilty to faking abduction: ‘The lies are out’

California prosecutors have asked that Sherri Papini, the young mom who admitted she staged a violent abduction to spend time with a former fling, be sentenced to eight months behind bars for the costly scheme – a much different request than the one month that defense attorneys suggested, court papers show.

Papini is due to be sentenced on the morning of September 19 by U.S. District Court Judge William B. Shubb in California. Prosecutors and defense attorneys submitted their separate sentencing memorandums ahead of Papini’s upcoming court date, as lawyers for the young mom griped that her punishment already “feels like a life sentence,” the filings show.

“There seems to be little or no chance for Sherri to go backwards now.”

— William J. Portanova, defense attorney for Sherri Papini
Prosecutors urged Shubb to sentence Papini to eight months in jail, which they described as a “low-end Guidelines sentence” that “fully and fairly accounts for the totality of Papini’s conduct and the relevant sentencing factors,” the document states.

“Papini planned and executed a sophisticated kidnapping hoax, and then continued to perpetuate her false statements for years after her return without regard for the harm she caused others,” prosecutors’ filing states. “As a result, state and federal investigators devoted limited resources to Papini’s case for nearly four years before they independently learned the truth: that she was not kidnapped or tortured.”

The document adds: “During this time, Papini caused innocent individuals to become targets of a criminal investigation. She left the public in fear of her alleged Hispanic capturers who purportedly remained at large.”

Prosecutors further slammed Papini for repeating her bogus story to law enforcement, even in August 2020 when agents confronted her with the evidence of what really happened. She also allegedly lied to the California Victim Compensation Board and the Social Security Administration to receive financial benefits.

Papini pleaded guilty in April 2022 to two count – out of 35 total counts – for engaging in mail fraud and making false statements to a federal office, prosecutors said.

In his own sentencing memorandum, Papini defense attorney William Portanova asked that the jurist order Papini to serve one month in jail and the remaining seven under house arrest, in line with the United States Probation Office’s recommendation.

“Ms. Papini’s painful early years twisted and froze her in myriad ways,” he wrote. “Unschooled and unskilled in honest communication, Ms. Papini lost her way early on.”

Portanova further described Papini as “outwardly sweet and loving, yet capable of intense deceit, whether for purposes of situational control or emotional self-protection.”

“Ms. Papini’s chameleonic personalities drove her to simultaneously crave family security and the freedom of youth,” the filing states. “While these are not unique feelings, in her they were pathological. Her life was painful until she married and began a family of her own.”

After running away from her husband and family, she returned and continued to spew lie after lie, “terrified that she had actually destroyed the one thing in her life that brought her true love and happiness, her family, desperately praying that the day of discovery would never come,” Portanova wrote.

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“Her unsettled masochism was in full public display when she returned from her fake kidnapping bearing the scars and wounds of her self-inflicted penance,” he wrote. He later added: “There seems to be little or no chance for Sherri to go backwards now. The lies are out, the guilt admitted, the shame universally seen.

Portanova added: “It is hard to imagine a more brutal public revelation of a person’s broken inner self. At this point, the punishment is already intense and feels like a life sentence.”

Prosecutors call the probation office’s recommendations insufficient.

The young mom from Redding, California, was first reported missing on Nov, 2, 2016, after she left home for a jog. Family members grew concerned after she never picked up her children from day care, and her husband discovered her cellphone and headphones along the road.

The FBI poster of the suspects in the kidnapping of Sherri Papini.

She re-emerged on Thanksgiving Day 2016, still wearing bindings and with injuries, including a battered nose, ligature marks, burns, rashes and a branding on her right shoulder.

Papini claimed to have been kidnapped and held at gunpoint by two Hispanic woman, whom she described to investigators – and an FBI sketch artist – and told a tale of her time in captivity. But during repeated interviews she changed her story or was not able to provide key details, investigators alleged.

“In truth, Papini had been voluntarily staying with a former boyfriend in Costa Mesa and had harmed herself to support her false statements,” prosecutors said in a press release announcing her March 2022 arrest.

Sherri Papini leaving her Redding, California, home a few months later after she claimed she was kidnapped.
Sherri Papini leaving her Redding, California, home a few months later after she claimed she was kidnapped.

Prior to the plea deal, Papini was facing 34 counts of mail fraud and one count of making false statements.

She instead pleaded guilty to a single count of each, and a restitution payment of up to $300,000. More specifically, she was ordered to pay nearly $149,000 to the Shasta County Sheriff’s Office; at least $127,568 to the Social Security Administration; $30,694 to the California Victims Compensation Board, and more than $2,500 to the FBI, according to court papers.

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