Sentencing day for actress Felicity Huffman in ‘Varsity Blues’ college entrance scam
BOSTON, M.A. (ABC News) – “Desperate Housewives” star Felicity Huffman is set to be sentenced on Friday for federal crimes stemming from the massive “Varsity Blues” college entrance scam, and prosecutors are asking a judge to send her to prison.
Huffman, 56, will learn her fate when she appears in U.S. District Court in Boston in front Judge Indira Talwani, to whom she has pleaded for leniency.
Earlier this month, Huffman’s lawyers filed legal papers asking Talwani to not send the Oscar-nominated actress to prison, writing that “nothing about her history and characteristics require a prison sentence.”
Huffman’s lawyers have asked Talwani to impose a one-year probation term, 250 hours of community service and a $20,000 fine. But federal prosecutors have asked the judge to sentence Huffman to one month of incarceration, followed by 12 months of supervised release and a fine of $20,000.
“She is remorseful — indeed, deeply ashamed — about what she did,” Huffman’s lawyers stated in court documents.
On March 13, a federal indictment was unsealed charging 50 people, including Huffman and more than 30 other wealthy parents, in the largest college cheating scam ever prosecuted by the U.S. Department of Justice.
The indictment alleges the parents paid bribes to William “Rick” Singer, a college-entrance tutor guru whom prosecutors identified as the ringleader of the nationwide scam, to get their children into elite colleges, including Stanford, the University of Southern California, Princeton and Georgetown.
Singer, 59, who prosecutors said collected $25 million in bribes during the years-long scam, pleaded guilty in March to racketeering conspiracy, money laundering conspiracy, conspiracy to defraud the United States and obstruction of justice. He’s yet to be sentenced.
Also indicted was actress Lori Loughlin — best known as Aunt Becky on the ABC sitcom “Full House” — and her husband, fashion designer Mossimo Giannulli, who are fighting charges they paid Singer $500,000 to get their two daughters, Olivia Jade and Isabella, into USC as recruits for the university’s crew team, despite the fact they’d never participated in the sport.
Huffman pleaded guilty earlier this year to charges of conspiring to commit mail fraud and honest service mail fraud and admitted that she paid Singer $15,000 to falsify her daughter Sophia’s SAT score.
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Actor William H. Macy seen arriving at a federal courthouse today in Los Angeles after wife Felicity Huffman was among those charged and arrested in what prosecutors called “the largest college admissions scam ever prosecuted by the Department of Justice." Authorities did not immediately make clear why Macy was not charged.
“I am in full acceptance of my guilt, and with deep regret and shame over what I have done. I accept full responsibility for my actions and will accept the consequences that stem from those actions,” Huffman tearfully said as she pleaded guilty in court on May 13.
Thirteen other defendants also have agreed to plead guilty.
Huffman’s lawyers have presented Talwani with letters vouching for her from the actress’ relatives, including her husband, actor William H. Macy, and former colleagues such as Eva Longoria, a fellow cast member on “Desperate Housewives.”
Huffman and Macy later allegedly made arrangements to pursue the scheme a second time, for their younger daughter, before deciding not to do so, according to court documents. Macy was not charged in the scam.
“To be sure, Felicity’s relationship with her daughters exploded on March 12th and rebuilding that relationship will be a long process. But I also want you to know Felicity has raised two amazing young women,” Macy wrote in his letter to Talwani.
“After her arrest Felicity found a wonderful family therapist and we’ve all been going (in various combinations) for the last few months,” Macy wrote. “There is much to be done, and some of the hurt and anger will take years to work through, but we are making progress.”
In court documents filed last week, federal prosecutors demanded that Huffman serve prison time.
“Huffman’s conduct was deliberate and manifestly criminal: It was wrong, she knew it was wrong, and she actively participated in manipulating her daughter’s guidance counselor, the testing services and the schools to which her daughter applied,” prosecutors wrote in court documents filed last Friday.
Prosecutors, according to the documents, argued that Huffman should serve time behind bars and that “neither probation nor home confinement (in a large home in the Hollywood Hills with an infinity pool) would constitute meaningful punishment or deter others from committing similar crimes.”