Felicity Huffman Sentenced to Two Weeks in Prison Following College Admissions Cheating Scandal: How it Could Affect Lori Loughlin’s Case


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By Emma Hurst, Staff Writer

Actress Felicity Huffman was sentenced to 14 days in a federal prison for her involvement in the college admissions cheating scandal.[1] In March 2019, 50 people were charged by federal prosecutors in a conspiracy to alter their children’s college entrance exams, paying more than a million dollars to secure admission to prestigious, highly sought-after schools, such as Yale and Stanford.[2][3]

The ringleader of the scandal was determined to be William Singer, a college counseling consultant.[4] Singer, who plead guilty to multiple counts of conspiracy and obstruction of justice, was behind the “elaborate effort to bribe coaches and test monitors, falsify exam scores, and fabricate student biographies – all to help wealthy parents secure slots for their children at desirable colleges.”[5] Singer’s client list contained several notable celebrity parents, including popular actresses Felicity Huffman and Lori Loughlin.[6]

According to federal prosecutors, parents involved in the scandal paid between $15,000 and $75,000 to guarantee higher test scores for their children.[7] Additionally, “university coaches and administrators were paid to secure admission for students who may not have even played the sport.”[8] Loughlin’s two daughters were admitted to the University of Southern California (“USC”) as crew team recruits, despite never having rowed crew before.[9]

Huffman, one of the most well-known names in the scandal, has plead guilty to fraud conspiracy charges.[10] She was sentenced to two weeks in federal prison after agreeing to plead guilty for a reduced prison sentence.[11] The government at first had pushed for upwards of one year of prison time, however that was later reduced to four months, and then again to one.[12] Sentencing is up to the discretion of the presiding judge, Judge Indira Talwani, who imposed a jail sentence of two weeks.[13]

Huffman’s sentencing could have a profound impact on Loughlin’s own case. Loughlin and her husband, Mossimo Giannulli, have pleaded not guilty to their own involvement in the cheating scandal.[14] The couple has been accused of paying $500,000 in bribes for their two non-rowing daughters to be accepted to USC as rowing recruits.[15] Huffman’s plea and sentencing could affect the outcome of Loughlin’s case and sentencing, argues Vinnie Politan, lead anchor on Court TV.[16] He argues, “…Huffman’s sentence means Lori Loughlin is facing much more time if she gets convicted. The two questions in her case are whether a jury will believe USC is really a ‘victim’ in the case, and whether they will believe the government’s star witness, who was the ringleader of the whole scam (and has also pleaded guilty).”[17]

San Diego criminal defense lawyer, David P. Shapiro, argues that Huffman’s sentencing could possibly affect Loughlin’s legal strategy.[18] Shapiro states, “What the Huffman sentence does is confirm Lori Loughlin’s fears about being sentenced to custody if convicted of anything.”[19] As a result, Shapiro argues Loughlin’s defense could “dig in further with their current position of fighting the case all the way to trial…Or it could make her want cut her losses and negotiate the best possible deal.”[20]

The plea deal that Huffman accepted was far less than what was original threatened when the scandal broke in March.[21] While Huffman originally wanted no prison time, the sentencing was much more lenient than originally expected.[22] Loughlin could change her plea now, but there is nothing that would ensure she would receive the same deal as those who pleaded not guilty.[23] Thus the potential sentence Loughlin and her husband face if found guilty is more severe than that which Huffman was sentenced to.[24]

In the coming weeks, we will be able to see if the Huffman plea deal has affected the Loughlin team or if they will be taking their case to trial. But until then, Loughlin is “innocent until proven guilty.”[25]

[1]  https://www.usatoday.com/story/entertainment/celebrities/2019/09/16/felicity-huffman-prison-sentence-impacting-lori-loughlins-strategy/2342946001/

[2] Id.

[3] https://www.nytimes.com/2019/03/14/us/college-admissions-scandal-questions.html?rref=collection%2Fnewseventcollection%2Fcollege-admissions-scandal&action=click&contentCollection=us&region=rank&module=package&version=highlights&contentPlacement=2&pgtype=collection

[4] Id.

[5] Id.

[6] Id.

[7] Id.

[8] https://www.usatoday.com/in-depth/news/nation/2019/06/19/college-admission-bribery-scandal-rick-singer-exploited-broken-system-loughlin-huffman/1133729001/

[9] Id.

[10] Id.

[11] https://www.usatoday.com/story/entertainment/celebrities/2019/09/16/felicity-huffman-prison-sentence-impacting-lori-loughlins-strategy/2342946001/

[12] Id.

[13] Id.

[14] Id.

[15] Id.

[16] Id.

[17] Id.

[18] Id.

[19] Id.

[20] Id.

[21] Id.

[22] Id.

[23] Id.

[24] Id.

[25] Id.

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