By Madisen Keavy

SACRAMENTO (CBS13) — Sherri Papini was in a courtroom Wednesday for the first time since she admitted her 2016 kidnapping was all a hoax.

Federal investigators said Papini fabricated a false narrative by saying she was abducted by two Hispanic women. Instead, she was hiding at an ex-boyfriend’s home in Southern California.

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Papini’s day at the courthouse started when she arrived surrounded by her legal team.

“It’s a long process. It’s complicated,” Papini’s attorney Bill Portanova said when Papini was asked if she had anything to say about the 5.5 years that it’s taken law enforcement to try to solve this crime. “All we can do is the right thing.”

A sketch shows Sherri Papini and her attorney Bill Portanova inside federal court in Sacramento on Wednesday, April 13, 2022. (credit: Vicki Behringer)

Papini didn’t answer any media questions on her way into the federal courthouse. Inside, her lawyer, pictured next to her in a courtroom sketch, put his hand on her back when she was first addressed by the judge. Her first words spoken were “yes, Your Honor.” Her voice was shaking. She sounded like she was on the verge of tears when asked her name and basic information—all proof for the judge she was competent to waive a trial and plead guilty.

She’ll plead guilty Monday for the first time on the record. During Wednesday’s arraignment, her secured bond changed to an unsecured $50,000 bond—a sign by the courts she’s not a flight risk.

On her way out of the courthouse, Papini was hit with more questions.

“If she could tell you now how it feels, I think you would see,” her attorney said.

“Can you give us an idea of what that feeling is like?” CBS13’s Madisen Keavy asked.

“A lot of pain, a lot of sorrow,” the attorney said.

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Papini did not respond when asked if she had anything to add.

Brian Jackson, a captain with the Shasta County Sheriff’s Office, was on Papini’s case since day one. We asked him at what point in the investigation did his team realize that what Papini was saying was not the truth.

“There were always parts of us from day 1, day 2, like ‘Hey, this ain’t what it’s supposed to be.’ That was a common conversation, but we have an obligation and duty to investigate a crime,” he said.

Jackson said where the case is now is vindication.

“Things just naturally weren’t making sense,” Jackson said. “I know people say it was all a hoax, it was a joke from day 1. We all had those conversations. We were focused on finding information to support that.”

As questions for Papini went unanswered Wednesday outside of the courthouse, Jackson has his own list, including: why not end it sooner?

“Why keep it going? Was it worth it?” Jackson said. “Here we are five-and-a-half, almost six years [later]. Why did she do it? Was it worth it?”

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Papini’s lawyer coached her before arraignment started, reminding her to take deep breaths and not let the silence in the courtroom get to her.
Tensions were high, even considering that on that mail fraud charge there was a 20-year maximum sentence.