Felicity Huffman Gets 14 Days in Prison for Role in College-Admissions Scheme
— Boston, MA
Actress Felicity Huffman will serve time behind bars for her part in the nationwide college admissions cheating scheme.
Huffman was sentenced to 14 days in prison, along with a $30,000 fine and community service Friday in Boston's federal court. The "Desperate Housewives" actress pleaded guiltyin May to conspiracy and fraud for paying $15,000 to boost her older daughter's SAT test scores.
Federal prosecutors had recommended that Huffman, 56, be sentenced to a month in prison, in addition to a $20,000 fine and supervised release. Her lawyers had said she should have gotten a year of probation, 250 hours of community service and a $20,000 fine.
Lesser penalties, including probation, would have meant little to someone with "a large home in the Hollywood Hills with an infinity pool," prosecutors said in a Sept. 6 filing. They added that a large fine would be "little more than a rounding error" for someone worth tens of millions of dollars.
Huffman's lawyers said she should get a year of probation, 250 hours of community service and a $20,000 fine. They said that she was only a "customer" in the scheme and that, in other cases of academic fraud, only the ringleaders have gone to prison.
Huffman arrived at court with her husband, actor William H. Macy. He had submitted a letter of support to the judge describing how Huffman has been a wonderful mother who has also occasionally struggled finding the right balance between her instincts and experts' recommendations.
In her own letter to the judge, Huffman wrote that,
"In my desperation to be a good mother I talked myself into believing that all I was doing was giving my daughter a fair shot. I see the irony in that statement now because what I have done is the opposite of fair."
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Hours before Huffman's sentencing, a federal judge announced that the size of bribes paid in the case will not necessarily influence the severity of sentences.
It settled a dispute between prosecutors, who said bigger bribes should lead to sharper penalties, and the court's probation office, which disagreed after concluding that the scheme caused no financial loss.
U.S. District Judge Indira Talwani sided with the probation office but said all factors will be considered in sentencing decisions.
The case was seen as an indicator of what's to come for others charged in the case. Over the next two months, nearly a dozen other parents are scheduled to be sentenced after pleading guilty. A total of 15 parents have pleaded guilty, while 19 are fighting the charges.
The amount Huffman paid is relatively low compared with other bribes alleged in the scheme. Some parents are accused of paying up to $500,000 to get their children into elite schools by having them labeled as recruited athletes for sports they didn't even play.
In the Sept. 4 letter asking for leniency, Huffman said she turned to the scheme because her daughter's low math scores jeopardized her dream of going to college and pursuing a career in acting. She now carries
"a deep and abiding shame," she said.
Parent Charged in College Bribery Scheme Pleads Guilty Prosecutors countered that Huffman knew the scheme was wrong but chose to participate anyway. They said she wasn't driven by need or desperation,
"but by a sense of entitlement, or at least moral cluelessness."
Among those fighting the charges are actress Lori Loughlin and her fashion designer husband, Mossimo Giannulli, who are accused of paying to get their two daughters admitted to the University of Southern California as fake athletes.
Authorities say it's the biggest college admissions case ever prosecuted by the Justice Department, with a total of 51 people charged.
Portions by, The Associated Press / NBC Bay Area / MLWA 7