Felicity Huffman Sentenced to 14 Days in Federal Prison in College Admissions Scandal

Associated Press/Photo by Elise Amendola Felicity Huffman (left) at federal court in Boston with her husband, William H. Macy (center), on Friday

Actress Felicity Huffman was sentenced on Friday to 14 days in federal prison for her role in a college admissions conspiracy. In that conspiracy, 34 wealthy and mostly white parents of college-age children are alleged to have paid thousands, and in some cases hundreds of thousands of dollars, to inflate their children’s credentials during the college application season.

Huffman was the first parent to receive a judgment.

Judge Indira Talwani oversaw the sentencing in Boston, where an investigation by the US attorney for the District of Massachusetts accused some 50 people, including coaches, test administrators, and others, of falsifying college admissions credentials. Investigators said some of the accused changed answers on tests; others bribed athletic coaches to claim they had recruited students for sports they did not play.

The case shed light on the advantages that those with great financial resources have during the college admissions process, and on the fine line between acceptable upper-hands available to some — such as the ability to hire private tutors, access to internships, and legacy admissions — and outright fraud. It has also brought renewed attention to cases in which disadvantaged people, primarily poor parents of color, have faced strong punishment for educational fraud, placing a harsh spotlight on racial and economic discrepancies within American education.

Huffman was arrested in March of this year as part of the federal investigation into cheating during the college admissions process. She was charged with conspiracy to commit mail fraud and honest services fraud, and pleaded guilty on May 13 to paying $15,000 for a test proctor to correct her daughter’s incorrect answers on the SAT, thus greatly inflating her daughter’s scores.

Beyond having to serve a fortnight in prison, Huffman must also pay a $30,000 fine and serve 250 hours of community service. She will commence her two-week prison sentence on October 25.

At the sentencing, Judge Talwani rebuked those involved in the scandal, including Huffman, for being unsatisfied with the opportunities afforded by their wealth, and for using that money and influence to take “the step of obtaining one more advantage to put your child ahead of” everyone else.

After the sentencing, Huffman released a statement that read, in part, “I accept the court’s decision today without reservation. I have always been prepared to accept whatever punishment Judge Talwani imposed. I broke the law. I have admitted that and I pleaded guilty to this crime. There are no excuses or justifications for my actions. Period.”

Actress Lori Loughlin, of Full House fame, casino executive Gamal Abdelaziz, and vineyard owner and Democratic donor Agustin Huneeus are also among the accused. Loughlin and her husband, fashion designer Mossimo Giannulli, who stand accused of spending nearly $500,000 to get their daughters improperly recruited to the University of Southern California as rowers, will take their case to trial; the date has not yet been set.

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SOURCE: Vox, Anya van Wagtendonk