Actress Felicity Huffman is scheduled to be sentenced Friday for paying thousands in a cheating scandal aiming to get her daughter admitted to college.
The sentencing hearing is set for 2:30 p.m. EDT in Boston.
Huffman is the first parent to be sentenced in the scandal, which engulfed several wealthy, high-profile parents. Prosecutors are seeking one month in prison for the Desperate Housewives star.
Huffman admitted to paying the ringleader of the scandal, Rick Singer, $15,000 to correct wrong answers on her oldest daughter’s SAT. The cheating improved her daughter’s score 400 points from her PSAT she’d taken the previous year.
Huffman’s legal team will argue for no prison time, one year probation, 250 hours of community service and a $20,000 fine.
The probation office argued there is no victim in this crime.
“I have a deep and abiding shame over what I have done,” Huffman said in a letter to the judge. “Shame and regret that I will carry for the rest of my life.”
Prosecutors showed that the universities and testing companies involved in the scandal suffered losses because of the actions of Huffman and others. But the court’s probation department didn’t find a victim in the case, which could support Huffman’s argument for no prison time.
“It was wrong, she knew it was wrong, and she actively participated in manipulating her daughter’s guidance counselor, the testing services and the schools to which her daughter applied,” prosecutors said. “Her efforts weren’t led by need or desperation, but by a sense of entitlement, or at least moral cluelessness, facilitated by wealth and insularity.”
They argued that home confinement wouldn’t be a “meaningful punishment” nor would it deter others from committing similar crimes. The $20,000 fine would be “little more than a rounding error for a defendant with a net worth measured in the tens of millions of dollars.
Sending Huffman to prison would “make clear that this was a real crime, causing real harm and reinforce the vital principle that all are equally subject to the law regardless of wealth or position.”
Huffman said her daughter had learning disabilities and she went looking for a guidance counselor who could help her get into the college of her choice. That’s how she met Singer, who recommended the cheating scheme.
“As warped as this sounds now, I honestly began to feel that maybe I would be a bad mother if I didn’t do what Mr. Singer was suggesting,” Huffman said. “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 of that statement now because what I have done is the opposite of fair. I have broken the law, deceived the education community, betrayed my daughter and failed my family.”
A total of 51 people are charged in the scandal, including actress Lori Loughlin. They’re accused of paying more than $25 million collectively to Singer to promote their children as fake athletes with scholarships or to cheat on the SAT. So far, 23 people, including parents, coaches and Singer have pleaded guilty to felonies.
Former Stanford University sailing coach John Vandemoer pleaded guilty to accepting $610,000 in bribes to recruit potential sailing applicants to Stanford. He served one day in prison.