UPDATED with more details: Felicity Huffman didn’t have to enter a plea Tuesday as part of the elite college bribery scheme for which she was indicted earlier in the day, but the actor had to hand over a chunk of change and her passport in Los Angeles federal court. Her release has been ordered pending a $250,000 bond.
Huffman is next expected in appear in Boston court March 29 for a preliminary hearing.
Standing before U.S. Magistrate Judge Alexander F. MacKinnon and with a cracked voice, the noticeably drawn and casually dressed Huffman responded with a “yes” several times during today’s hearing when asked whether she understood the charges before her.
With guards by their sides, Huffman and the other 10 or so Los Angeles locals arrested in the sting this morning stood in a glassed-off area at the far end of the courtroom. Also in the room was Huffman’s husband and Shameless star William H. Macy, who sat among the families of other defendants with his head down staring at the floor or reading documents. He only really looked up to raise his hand when asked by the judge whether he was in the courtroom, and to hand over his driver’s license and other ID for verification as part of the bail co-signing.
Huffman, the Emmy-winning former Desperate Housewives star, and 45 others were indicted in a multimillion-dollar scheme by wealthy parents to get their children into top schools with the aides of bribes and false athletic qualifications.
Her appearance in federal court this afternoon comes hours after the American Crime actor was arrested. Fuller House star Lori Loughlin also faces the same charges but was not taken into custody this morning; she was out of town and flew into LAX this afternoon. Her husband, fashion designer Mossimo Giannulli, was arrested and was also in court Tuesday.
Represented by attorney Mark Harris, Giannulli also put up $1 million bail today with restrictions to travel only within the continental U.S. Although Loughlin was not in court, her placement in this case came up as well. Seemingly also represented by Harris, the Hallmark Channel regular asked for slightly more indulgent travel restrictions from the court. Specifically, the actor also wants to be able to travel to Vancouver, BC, for work. MacKinnon conceded the request sounded reasonable, but that it would have to be addressed by another magistrate at a later date.
Although today’s multi-defendant hearing started two hours after it was scheduled, Huffman’s time in front of the judge was relatively quick, starting at 4:18 PM PT and ending around 4:30. Besides the actor’s short answers, the bulk of that time was spent with Huffman’s attorney Evan Jenness and federal prosecutor Adam Schleifer bickering over her bail and what other conditions should be imposed.
With a distinct note of sarcasm in her tone, Jenness promised the court that her client had no intention of becoming “an international fugitive” and argued she should be released on her own recognizance. Saying Huffman had real estate assets in excess of $20 million and other investments of up to $4 million, Schleifer strongly advocated for a bail that would at least be 1% of Huffman’s resources.
While MacKinnon agreed with the feds on the bail amount, he did not agree that Huffman couldn’t discuss the case with Macy, rejecting the government assertion it considered him “a witness to her conduct.”
As a result of today’s hearing, Huffman’s travel is restricted to the continental U.S. However, as is often the case with high-profile defendants, the judge said international travel would be allowed if the court grants permission.
Discovered through taped conversations and more in a year-long investigation by the FBI and U.S. Attorney’s Office, Huffman specifically “made a purported charitable contribution of $15,000 to participate in the college entrance exam cheating scheme on behalf of her eldest daughter,” according to the indictment read this morning in Boston by Andrew Lelling, the U.S. Attorney for the District of Massachusetts. The CAA-repped Huffman also paid an undisclosed sum to an individual who “controlled” a Los Angeles SAT testing center to fix her daughter’s incorrect exam answers. That effort led to a massive increase in the daughter’s test score and consequently admission to a top college.
Tipped off in the pursuit of another case, the feds found a $25 million scam run by the William Singer-topped Key Worldwide Foundation. The money, collected by the nonprofit as “donations” from parents, allegedly funded illegal activity including hiring other individuals to write admission exams for potential students, paying officials to alter test scores, and bribing coaches so their children could gain admission as recruited athletes even if they had never played the sport. Singer and several coaches from top schools entered guilty pleas earlier Tuesday.
Among those charged in the March 6 indictment, Huffman could be looking at up to five years behind bars if found guilty.
Although mentioned in the grand jury indictment, Macy was not charged in the nationwide case. Lelling, the U.S. Attorney for the District of Massachusetts, called the case “the largest college admissions scam ever prosecuted by the Department of Justice.”