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Sherri Papini, who is accused of faking her 2016 kidnapping, left a Sacramento jail Tuesday surrounded by a throng of reporters.
Papini was released on a $120,000 bond after U.S. Magistrate Judge Jeremy D. Peterson determined the 39-year-old was not a flight risk or threat to the community, despite objections from prosecutors, according to The Sacramento Bee.
Papini was released into the arms of her family members, who surrounded the California mom as they ran to a vehicle parked about a block away from the jail.
While reporters lobbed questions at Papini about the allegations, she didn’t respond and at one point could be heard sobbing as she got into the vehicle with help from her family, local station KOVR reports.
Papini has been accused by federal prosecutors of faking her own kidnapping in 2016, earning national attention.
Papini disappeared on Nov. 2, 2016 while out for a jog near her Redding home. She resurfaced several weeks later on Thanksgiving Day, about a 150 miles south of her home, along a Yolo County road, shackled with bruises, burns and a brand on her shoulder, according to an affidavit obtained by Oxygen.com.
She told investigators that she had been kidnapped by two Hispanic women, who tortured her for weeks and told her she was being sold to a cop, before one of the women decided to let her go. Authorities now say, however, that they’ve uncovered evidence that Papini faked the kidnapping with the help of an ex-boyfriend, who she stayed with at his Costa Mesa home as the community frantically searched for the missing mom.
On Tuesday, federal prosecutors asked the judge to keep Papini behind bars, arguing that she was an “extreme flight risk” who had already pulled off an “elaborate scheme” to stage her own kidnapping.
“This defendant ran and successfully hid from law enforcement for three weeks,” Assistant U.S. Attorney Veronica Alegria said, according to the local paper.
Prosecutors said that Papini had already been willing to go to extreme measures to deceive authorities.
“I don’t think even putting an ankle bracelet on her could ensure her appearance because if someone is willing to brand themselves, they’re just as easily to be willing to cut off an ankle monitor,” prosecutors argued in the virtual hearing, according to The New York Post.
Alegria also argued that Papini had tried to resist arrest on Thursday after FBI agents confronted her outside her children’s piano lessons. According to prosecutors, when she learned she was being arrested she threw her cell phone 20 feet and tried to run.
“She screamed ‘no’ and ran away from them and resisted arrest,” Alegria said, according to The Sacramento Bee.
However, Papini’s attorney Michael Borges argued the California mom should be released on her own recognizance, The Post reports. He cited her lack of a criminal record and stressed that the allegations she was facing were non-violent.
Borges also argued against a GPS monitor, saying the 39-year-old, who still contends she was kidnapped, would find an ankle monitor “traumatizing” because of her past, the news outlet reports.
“Papini has a diagnosed condition, complex post-traumatic stress disorder… and that condition might be exacerbated by affixing the GPS monitor,” Borges said.
Borges also denied prosecutors’ claims that Papini had tried to resist the arrest, telling the court Papini had been surprised and was only trying to move closer to her children. Authorities had allegedly gotten her outside the building where the piano lessons were taking place by telling her that her vehicle had been in an accident.
While Peterson acknowledged he was concerned about “the defendant’s track record of alleged dishonest conduct” he ultimately sided with the defense and set a $120,000 bond. As part of the conditions of her release, Papini was required to surrender her passport, surrender her and her husband’s firearms, limit any travel, abstain from drugs and alcohol and undergo psychiatric treatment, according to the local paper.
Papini is facing charges of making false statements to a law enforcement officer and mail fraud. If convicted on all counts against her, she could be facing up to 25 years behind bars, according to a statement from the Department of Justice.
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