Lori Loughlin and other well-heeled parents indicted in “Operation Varsity Blues” will still be going to trial later this year, a federal judge ruled Friday.
“After consideration of the extensive briefing, affidavits and other information provided by the government and defendants, the Court is satisfied that the government has not lied to or misled the Court,” U.S. District Judge Nathaniel Gorton said today of the brassy motion in the college bribery scheme case. “The defendants’ motion to dismiss the indictment or in the alternative to suppress evidence and order an evidentiary hearing is denied,” added the 11-page order (read it here).
Which means, despite the efforts, the trial for Loughlin, her husband Mossimo Giannulli and several other wealthy defendants remains set to start October 5.
The office of the U.S. Attorney for Massachusetts had no comment when contacted by Deadline on what is clearly a big win for them. Reps for Loughlin and Giannulli did not respond to requests for comment on failing in their bid to get the matter stopped, have recordings of key conversations suppressed, or have a deep-dive evidentiary hearing.
Facing about 50 years behind bars and millions in fines for supposedly handing out big bucks and fake qualifications to fake charities to get their offspring into a top-notch school under false pretenses, Loughlin and Giannulli, along with others, had hoped to kneecap the U.S. Attorney’s case.
To that end, the defendants boldly claimed that overzealous FBI agents leaned heavily on phony Key Worldwide Foundation boss William “Rick” Singer into falsely implicating the duo and others in having committed pricey criminal acts to land their kids’ acceptance into choice colleges.
Having formally pleaded not guilty in mid-April last year after turning down a government deal, the former Fuller House star and fashion designer Giannulli are accused in the wealthy suspects probe of paying “bribes totaling $500,000 in exchange for having their offspring designated as recruits to the USC crew team — despite the fact that they had never participated in crew — thereby facilitating their admission to USC,” according to the 200-page indictment made public on March 12 last year that snared more than 30 parents nationwide.
Following the expected move by Loughlin and Giannulli’s Latham & Watkins lawyers earlier this year to formally attempt to toss the case citing a cloud of “government misconduct,” prosecutors admitted in a 36-page filing of their own on April 8 that it was a “mistake” not to turn over evidence of Singer’s notes on his iPhone earlier.
However, after offering that apology and weathering Judge Gordon’s remarks that the claims were “serious and disturbing,” the prosecutors explained that Singer’s jottings had come very early in the investigation and were not connected to individuals including now-disgraced When Calls the Heart actor. U.S. Attorney Andrew Lelling and his team brought some new heat and rolled out even more documentation that directly counters Loughlin and Giannulli’s insistence that they never knew the half a million they handed over was meant as an illegal golden ticket for their kids.
The government included selections from that document of Singer, who pleaded guilty and will likely testify at the trial this fall, as far back as 2015, telling Loughlin and Giannulli who to pay, how much, what to call a “donation,” the need getting an “action photo” of their youngest daughter as a part of a fake “coxswain profile,” and even what to say to the IRS.
Not that Gordon ignored the implications of the late or the government’s actions in today’s order.
“The government should have produced Singer’s October 2nd note much sooner than it did. The government’s failure to do so was irresponsible and misguided,” he wrote.
“It was not, however, willful and is partly explained (but not excused) by the AUSAs’ imprudent underestimation of the context, relevance and potential exculpatory nature of the notes,” the Boston-based judge went on to say with a deft choice of phrases. “More importantly, the note was disclosed more than eight months before the scheduled trial and before defendants’ deadline for the filing of dispositive motions. Defendants have ample time to prepare for trial with the benefit of the subject note and have not been unduly prejudiced by its late disclosure.”