No, really, why did Lori Loughlin plead not guilty?

I have a half-assed guess to explain this morning’s news but as always legal eagles are invited to correct me.

One theory being kicked around is that Loughlin and her husband actually believe they can win at trial.

A legal expert offered a third reason Loughlin and her husband have chosen to fight the charges, instead of taking plea deals like the other parents. In an interview with the Los Angeles Times, defense attorney Lara Yeretsian suggested that the case against some of the parents may not be the slam-dunk people assume.

“Most of them could make a good case that they were entrapped,” Yeretsian said.

The focus of such a defense would be on William “Rick” Singer, the college admissions consultant who pleaded guilty to multiple charges involved in different bribery schemes he used to get the children of wealthy parents into well-known U.S. colleges.

Yeah, I’m not sure how entrapment’s going to work. According to the DOJ’s complaint, Singer didn’t begin cooperating with the feds until September 2018. He allegedly worked his admissions magic for the Giannulli girls in 2016 and 2017. An entrapment defense is hard to pull off under the best circumstances and those are, ah, not the best circumstances. If Loughlin thinks she can win in court, it’s probably due to a more general belief that juries don’t convict celebrities than some specific faith in entrapment.

Another possibility I’ve heard floated for days is that she did it because she couldn’t have looked her daughters in the eye if she had admitted guilt. I am … unconvinced.

Regardless of Loughlin and Giannulli’s plea, this family’s reputation is pretty much in the gutter. Given their less-than-desirable position, pleading not guilty could be a way of saving face, of maintaining some semblance of moral purity even as the evidence implying otherwise piles up. Or perhaps the couple doesn’t want to admit to their children that they intervened in their lives to such a criminal degree that they put all of their reputations on the line. Meanwhile, some reports claim Loughlin didn’t accept the initial plea deal that Huffman embraced because she was in “complete denial” about the prospect of serving time in prison, and didn’t want to grapple with the fact that she would actually have to engage with the case in a serious way.

She could have gotten two years behind bars if she’d taken the deal offered by the feds. Now she’s facing a maximum of 40 from the new charges they’ve added since she rejected the deal. She won’t get that much, needless to say, but she’s conceivably in line for more than two years now. She’s also facing the prospect of a courtroom spectacle that’ll extend the family’s shame for months, potentially traumatize her kids by forcing them to testify, and maybe backfire emotionally if the sheer weight of evidence arrayed against her at trial convinces her daughters that she’s guilty. There’s even a chance, I assume, that the feds will continue to play hardball with her by indicting one or both of her kids for participating in the scam. If she was worried about her daughters thinking less of her, she could have taken the deal and told them she’s innocent but feels it’s too risky to fight the charges and maybe end up with a stiff sentence.

My theory is that the not-guilty plea is a leverage play, essentially the only one she has.

“She probably should have taken the deal, but at the time, she didn’t really realize how serious the charges were,” the outlet’s source said. “More than that, I think she and her lawyers underestimated how motivated the prosecution was. So she didn’t plead, and then they hit her with another charge. Now she’s willing to negotiate, but the prosecution says that the deal is off the table. So the only choice they’ve got is to plead not guilty. That’s all they can do.”

They offered her a deal of two years in jail and warned her to take it or they’d add charges. She thought they were bluffing and refused. They weren’t bluffing. Now she either goes to trial or accepts a new, worse deal with even more jail time. (“Our sources say a plea bargain is still on the table,” reports TMZ.) She’s trying to get that original deal put back on the table and figures the only way the feds will agree is if she confronts them with the possibility of a long trial against an expensive defense team, with utter humiliation for the DOJ in the offing if they try the case and lose following all this publicity. Even if they don’t give her the same deal as the original one, maybe they’ll offer her something substantially similar — say, two years and three months. At this point she’d be a fool not to take it.

But she’s calling their bluff again here — twice, in fact. First she’s betting that the DOJ is reluctant to take the case to trial even though convicting Loughlin and her husband would scare the hell out of the many other defendants in the college admissions scandal and no doubt lead to a cascade of guilty pleas. And she’s also betting that they won’t raise the stakes again by indicting her children. I think she’s probably right about that, as there’ll be too much public distaste for threatening a kid who didn’t want to go to college in the first place with prison for the crime of doing what her parents told her to do. But if they want to squeeze Loughlin as hard as they can, it’s an option.

Either way, I hope there’s no deal. It’ll be the trial of the century! Live-streamed on YouTube, with make-up tips from Olivia Jade during court recesses.

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