A week before Felicity Huffman is set to be sentenced for her role in the elite schools admission scandal, prosecutors on Friday told a federal judge exactly what they think the American Crime actor’s punishment should be.
“The government recommends a sentence of one month of incarceration for Huffman, who agreed to pay $15,000 for the exam cheating scheme for her older daughter, and considered doing it again for her younger daughter, but ultimately chose not to do so,” reads a sentencing memorandum from U.S. Attorney for the District of Massachusetts Andrew Lelling ahead of the September 13 sentencing hearing in Boston.
In what is ultimately a great deal for Huffman if the judge agrees, the feds also want to see the actor’s “term of one month of incarceration” to be “followed by 12 months of supervised release and a fine of $20,000” for the now single count of conspiracy to commit mail fraud and honest services mail fraud to which she pleaded guilty.
As the Lelling noted in a supplemental memo (read it here), “under the Sentencing Guidelines, Huffman’s advisory Guidelines range is zero to six months of incarceration, in addition to supervised release and a fine.” Under those terms, its means Huffman is getting the minimum in jail time the feds think they can achieve.
Huffman was arrested in Los Angeles on March 12 for dropping dough to ex-call center manager William Singer and his phony Key Worldwide Foundation to get her eldest daughter into a top college surreptitiously using faked test scores.
“Some period of incarceration is the only meaningful sanction for these crimes,” Lelling’s office said of the need for jail time, in a more persuasive mode than the usual stern recommendation. “Not because the defendants’ relative wealth has generated public resentment, but because jail is a particularly meaningful response to this kind of offense,” added the “Operation Varsity Blues” prosecutors about the widespread conspiracy that saw more than 30 parents indicted in March, including former Fuller House star Lori Loughlin and other Hollywood parents.
“For wrongdoing that is predicated on wealth and rationalized by a sense of privilege, incarceration is the only leveler: in prison everyone is treated the same, dressed the same, and intermingle regardless of affluence, position or fame,” the government asserted before adding the written equivalent of a jailhouse shiv. “Millions of parents send their kids to college every year. But they don’t buy fake SAT scores and joke about it (“Ruh Ro!”) along the way.”
Compared to a number of the indicted wealthy parents and the $500,000 that Loughlin and her fashion designer husband Mossimo Giannulli paid out to get their two non-rowing daughters into USC as recruits to the university’s crew team, Huffman’s payout was on the low end of the spectrum – and hence the relatively easy recommendation by the feds today.
Also informing that relatively light punishment is the fact Huffman made a deal with the government back in April to plead guilty in exchange for a reduced sentence. Initially, the feds seemed to be pushing for something like a year of prison time.
Hoping for greater credit for their cooperation, Huffman and her legal team have been angling for a sentence of zero months plus that year of probation, 250 hours of community service and a $20,000 fine.
In their own filed paperwork, the defense say that the When They See Us actor has suffered enough as she now can’t get roles and her children are “deeply angry” at the underhanded tactics she used.
“I honestly didn’t and don’t care about my daughter going to a prestigious college,” Huffman wrote in a letter sent to the court Friday. “I just wanted to give her a shot at being considered for a program where her acting talent would be the deciding factor.”
According to the dense March 6 indictment that followed the nearly year-long investigation by the U.S. Attorney and the FBI, Huffman “made a purported charitable contribution of $15,000 to participate in the college entrance exam cheating scheme on behalf of her eldest daughter.”
The CAA-represented Huffman additionally 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 what should have been a red-flag-waving 400-point increase in the daughter’s test score and consequently admission to a top college.
At the time of her arrest and before entering a plea, Huffman was looking at up to 20 years of possible jail time from the charges.
With un-indicted husband and Shameless star William H Macy sitting in a downtown L.A. courtroom on March 12, U.S. Magistrate Judge Alexander F. MacKinnon released Huffman on $250,000 bail bond and restricted her travel. As part of coming to those specifics, a detailed list of the couple’s personal financial information was openly discussed and revealed in the courtroom.
Unlike Huffman and clearly with bigger fish to fry, Loughlin and Giannulli rebuffed the government’s offer of a plea deal and pleaded not guilty on April 15 in court. Looking at as much as more than 40 years each in prison if found guilty on charges of conspiracy to commit mail and wire fraud, honest services fraud and money laundering, the couple were in court in Boston last month in a successful bid to share lawyers in their defense.
Loughlin and Giannulli have an October 2 status conference in their case, which should find Huffman halfway through her incarceration if the actor heads off to jail directly after next week’s sentencing.