Andrew Lelling, whose office is prosecuting the Operation Varsity Blues case, gave a rare interview over the weekend praising “classy” Felicity Huffman ahead of prison and also confirmed that Lori Loughlin faces a “substantially higher” amount of time behind bars if convicted.
Actress Lori Loughlin and 10 other parents in a massive college admissions scandal are facing additional charges, the Justice Department announced Tuesday.
A grand jury in the District of Massachusetts brought new charges against 11 of the 15 parents charged in the college admissions case, including Loughlin.
Loughlin and the 10 other parents facing new charges have pleaded not guilty to the previous charges in the alleged admissions scheme.
The new charges in the third superseding indictment allege that the 11 defendants conspired to commit federal program bribery by paying off employees of the University of Southern California to facilitate their children’s admission.
During an interview with On the Record on WCVB Channel 5, Lelling called Huffman “probably the least culpable of the defendants who we’ve charged in that case.”
“One of the things we looked at was money involved. She spent about $15,000 to have her daughter get a fake SAT score,” he explained. “She took responsibility almost immediately. She was contrite, did not try to minimize her conduct. I think she handled it in a very classy way and so, at the end of the day, we thought the one-month was proportional.”
Ultimately, Huffman was sentenced to 14 days in prison, 250 hours of community service and a fine of $30,000.
“I think the two weeks she actually got was also reasonable, we were happy with that,” Lelling said. “I think it was a thoughtful sentence.”
“What I value in the Felicity Huffman sentence is that I think it sent a clear message to the other parents involved that there really is a good chance that if you’re convicted of the offense, you are going to go to prison for some period of time because the least culpable defendant who took responsibility right away, even she got prison.”
Lelling was asked specifically about Lori Loughlin and her husband, Mossimo Giannulli, who are accused of paying around $500,000 to get their daughters into USC as crew recruits, even though neither rowed. He confirmed what legal experts speculated to Yahoo Entertainment last month – that Loughlin will spend more time in prison than Huffman if convicted.
“If she’s convicted… we would probably ask for a higher sentence for her than we did for Felicity Huffman,” Lelling said. “I can’t tell you exactly what that would be. The longer the case goes, let’s say she goes through to trial, if it is after trial, certainly, we would ask for something substantially higher. If she resolved it before trial, something lower than that.”
Last week, Entertainment Tonight reported Loughlin’s “anxiety is through the roof, she is terrified, and she’s been consumed with trying to put on a happy face but it’s not easy under the circumstances.”
“Lori has been trying to stay positive and resolved herself to the fact she’s a good person that meant no wrong and that she made the right decision to share an attorney with her husband and not take a plea.”
Lori Loughlin, Giannulli and the other parents fighting federal charges are due back in court in January.