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Q. Why was Sherri Papini able to leave the courthouse after being sentenced to 18 months in prison? Why does she get to "turn herself in" starting in November?
A. Just like the rest of her sentence, what happened to Sherri Papini was at the discretion of the judge.
Papini, the Mountain Gate mom who faked her 2016 kidnapping, was sentenced to prison on Sept. 19 by Senior U.S. District Judge William B. Shubb in Sacramento.
About 30 minutes after the sentencing hearing ended, Papini and her attorney walked out of the Robert T. Matsui U.S. Courthouse and Federal Building in downtown Sacramento, through a throng of reporters and into a waiting black SUV that quickly pulled away.
Under Shubb's order, Papini can turn herself in on Nov. 8 to the federal prison where she will be held — a facility which has not yet been announced and will be designated based on security classification and space availability. Or, she can return to Sacramento to turn herself in on that date to the U.S. Marshal's Office.
“At sentencing, the judge determines all the factors of when the sentence begins,” said Lauren Horwood, public information officer for the U.S. Attorney's Office, via email.
“It’s not unusual for a defendant who has been out of custody leading up to the sentencing to be given a date for self-surrender," said Horwood.
Papini was arrested by the FBI in March 2022. She later admitted to being voluntarily in Costa Mesa, California, with an ex-boyfriend the entire time.
Under a plea agreement Papini reached with the government, she'll also be responsible for restitution totaling $309,686.33 for losses incurred by the California Victim Compensation Board, the Social Security Administration, the Shasta County Sheriff’s Office and the Federal Bureau of Investigation.
Shubb gave Papini a longer sentence than the government prosecutors' recommendation, which was 8 months, followed by three years of supervised release. Papini's defense lawyer had recommended a much lighter sentence.
The judge said he gave her more time than either side had requested to deter copycats. "We have to make sure that crime does not pay," Shubb said.
Papini could've faced a maximum penalty of five years in prison and a fine up to $250,000 for making false statements to a federal law enforcement officer. For the count of mail fraud, she could have faced a maximum statutory penalty of 25 years in prison and a fine up to $250,000, federal officials said.
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Michele Chandler covers criminal justice issues for the Redding Record Searchlight/USA Today Network. Follow her on Twitter at @MChandler_RS, call her at 530-338-7753 or email her at firstname.lastname@example.org. Please support our entire newsroom's commitment to public service journalism by subscribing today.
This article originally appeared on Redding Record Searchlight: Why Sherri Papini could leave court after being sentenced to prison