The sentence is more than double the time prosecutors recommended. Papini is also required to repay an estimated $310,000, which includes reimbursements to the California Victims Compensation Board for expenses like visits to her therapist for “treatment for anxiety and PTSD” and for the ambulance ride to the hospital after she surfaced near Sacramento.
The sentence brings to a close a nearly six-year saga that began with a frantic three-week search for the “missing” Papini in 2016 and the subsequent investigations that led to her guilty plea earlier this year for lying to a federal officer and mail fraud.
Papini’s punishment comes as a surprise as it’s more than eight to 14 months longer than the sentence she agreed to in her plea deal with prosecutors, though it’s down from the maximum 25 years.
Senior U.S. District Judge William Shubb said Monday that he opted for an 18-month sentence in order to deter others. Shubb also said he also considered “the sheer number of people who were impacted.”
“When a young mother went missing in broad daylight, a community was filled with fear and concern,” U.S. Attorney Phillip Talbert said in March.
“Ultimately, the investigation revealed that there was no kidnapping and that time and resources that could have been used to investigate actual crime, protect the community, and provide resources to victims were wasted.”
Despite the bindings on her body and self-inflicted injuries — of which included a swollen nose and blurred “brand” on her right shoulder — federals officials came across evidence in 2020 showing that she had not been abducted when Papini resurfaced on Thanksgiving Day in 2016.
That was when she was warned of the consequences of lying to federal officers.
It wasn’t until March of 2022, however, that she was formally arrested. When DNA was retested on her body from the day she was “found,” the DNA belonged to her ex-boyfriend rather than her alleged kidnappers. Her ex-boyfriend then admitted to the kidnapping being a hoax.
Papini, who was emotional throughout the proceedings, quietly answered, “Yes, sir,” when the judge asked if she understood the sentence.
Check back for the latest developments as this story is still being updated.