BOSTON– Actress Felicity Huffman who stared in the TV show Desperate Housewives has been sentenced to jail in federal prison. A US District Court Judge sentenced her to 14 days in federal prison for her role in a college admissions conspiracy .
In that conspiracy, 51 wealthy parents paid hundreds of thousands of dollars, to inflate their children’s credentials for their college applications. Huffman, 56, was the first parent sentenced in a college admissions scandal.
The scandal exposed the lengths to which parents will go to get their children into the “right” schools. Reinforcing suspicions that the US college admissions process is slanted toward the rich.
In sentencing, US District Judge Indira Talwani noted the outrage the case has generated. Saying that it “isn’t because people discovered that it isn’t a true meritocracy out there”. The outrage, she said, was because Huffman took steps “to get one more advantage” in a system “already so distorted by money and privilege”.
Prosecutors had sought a month in prison for Huffman, while her lawyers pleaded for probation.
A total of 51 people have been charged in the scheme, the biggest college admissions case ever prosecuted by the Justice Department. Prosecutors said parents schemed to manipulate test scores and bribed coaches to get their children into elite schools. Having them labelled as recruited athletes for sports they didn’t even play.
Huffman paid $15,000 to boost her older daughter’s SAT scores with the help of William Singer, an “admissions consultant” at the centre of the scheme. Singer, who has pleaded guilty, allegedly bribed a test supervisor to correct the teenager’s answers.
Huffman pleaded guilty in May to a single count of conspiracy and fraud as part of a “deal” with prosecutors.
The amount Huffman paid is relatively low compared with other bribes alleged in the scheme. Some parents are accused of paying up to $500,000.
Huffman must report for her prison sentence in six weeks. She also must pay a $30,000 fine and perform 250 hours of community service.
The case is seen as an indicator of what’s in store for other defendants. Over the next two months, nearly a dozen other parents are scheduled to be sentenced. Fifteen parents have pleaded guilty, while 19 are fighting the charges.
Among those contesting the charges are actress Lori Loughlin and her fashion designer husband, Mossimo Giannulli. Who are accused of paying to get their two daughters into the University of Southern California as fake athletes.
Former Stanford University sailing coach John Vandemoer is the only other person sentenced so far and received a day in prison. He admitted helping students get into Stanford as recruited athletes in exchange for $270,000 for his sailing program.
Authorities said Huffman’s daughter Sophia got a bump of 400 points from her earlier score on the PSAT, a practice version of the SAT. Prosecutors have not said which colleges her daughter applied to with the fraudulent SAT score.
Huffman’s husband, actor William H Macy, was not charged.
In a letter this month asking for leniency, Huffman said she turned to the scheme after her daughter’s dreams of going to college and pursuing an acting career were jeopardized by her low math score.
“I honestly didn’t and don’t care about my daughter going to a prestigious college,” Huffman wrote. “I just wanted to give her a shot at being considered for a program where her acting talent would be the deciding factor.”
Prosecutors said that Huffman was driven by “a sense of entitlement, facilitated by wealth and insularity.”
The Associated Press