To that end and facing more than 20 years each in prison if they are found guilty on charges of conspiracy to commit mail and wire fraud, honest services fraud and money laundering, the ex-Fuller House star and the fashion designer were asked some hard questions Tuesday by a federal judge in Boston over their desire to share attorneys in their defense and stick with the firm of Latham & Watkins.
Eventually approving the couple’s wishes, Magistrate Judge Page Kelly wanted to know whether either of the duo had any prescription or illicit drug use, alcohol or psychological issues that could impair their respective ability to understand the risk they were taking sharing lawyers in such a high-stakes case, and the trial that clearly looks to be upcoming.
Both Loughlin and Giannulli replied that there are no such issues for them.
In fact, after once When Calls the Heart actor Loughlin and Giannulli snuck past the media camped out in front of the courthouse, most of the approximately 45-minute hearing was a series of yes and no answers from the couple.
Even after an almost incredulous Kelly warned that having an attorney who is working for “you and you alone” is one of the best ways to get a good defense, Loughlin and Giannulli signaled their plan to move ahead with the same legal team led by William Trach. At the end of the hearing in the federal courthouse, the couple inked a waiver to that effect on the possible conflicts of interest poised.
Having plead not guilty in mid-April and turning down a government deal, Loughlin and Giannulli are accused in the “Operation Varsity Blues” probe of paying “bribes totaling $500,000 in exchange for having their two daughters designated as recruits to the USC crew team — despite the fact that they did not participate in crew — thereby facilitating their admission to USC,” according to the 200-page indictment made public March 12.
Moving towards the next court date — an October 2 status conference — today’s hearing also revealed a glimpse of how Loughlin, Giannulli and their lawyers plan to mount a defense. In very Nixonian fashion, the two intend to force prosecutors at the U.S. District Attorney of Massachusetts’ office to question what Loughlin and Giannulli actually knew about what the scam’s “mastermind” Rick Singer, as one defense lawyer called the ex-call center manager today, was really up to for their daughters with his phony Key Worldwide Foundation.
In regards to the defense being put on by Latham & Watkins, prosecutors raised flags earlier when it emerged the well-heeled firm had done work for USC on matters unrelated to the scandal that has seen more than 30 well-heeled parents arrested for trying to get their kids into top-notch schools through cheating on exams and phony athletic credentials. In addition, another firm hired by Giannulli is also representing Davina Isackson, who was also indicted in the scandal and is now co-operating with the feds, and fellow co-defendant Peter Jan Sartorio. Lawyers for Boston’s Donnelly, Vonroy & Gelhaar assured Kelly today that they have put up a “robust firewall” to ensure there is no overlap.
The federal magistrate did not deliver a ruling on that potential conflict, but Kelly did say in court Tuesday that she was “inclined” to approve Giannulli’s use of Donnelly, Vonroy & Gelhaar.
Another Hollywood parent caught in “Operation Varsity Blues” will learn her fate on September 13. That is when Felicity Huffman has to appear in the same Boston courthouse for a sentencing hearing that will likely see the Emmy winner and Oscar nominee get less than four months of jail time, if any at all, under a plea deal worked out with prosecutors back in May.
The feds are also recommending to U.S. District Judge Indira Talwani that Huffman should have one year of supervised release and pay around $20,000 in fines. She was arrested March 12 for dropping $15,000 to Singer and his foundation to get her and William H. Macy’s eldest daughter into a top college surreptitiously with inflated test scores.
Although he appears in court filings and on taped conversations regarding the matter, Shameless actor Macy was never charged in the widespread case.
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