Alternate headline: Aunt Becky don’t take no ****. After rebuffing federal prosecutors on a plea deal in the college-admissions scandal, Lori Loughlin and husband Massimo Giannulli got charged with additional money laundering counts. They want a judge to accept a not-guilty plea without showing up in a Boston court this morning as a deal looks even less likely now:
Actress Lori Loughlin and her husband intend to plead not guilty to charges stemming from a nationwide college entrance cheating scandal, according to a document filed Monday in Boston federal court.
Loughlin and her husband, the fashion designer Mossimo Giannulli, are attempting to waive their right to appear in court to enter their pleas to a new charge of conspiracy to commit money laundering filed last week, federal officials said.
It’s unclear whether a judge will accept her request or require her to show up in person to enter her plea.
This will be the first explicit legal response from the couple in this case. They put off a plea in an earlier court appearance:
Loughlin’s not guilty plea to charges of conspiracy to commit fraud and conspiracy to commit money laundering is her first substantive response in the case. Prosecutors say she and Giannulli paid $500,000 to a fake charity to get her two daughters accepted into the University of Southern California, falsely designating them as crew recruits. …
The actress Felicity Huffman was among 13 parents who pleaded guilty to a charge of conspiracy to commit fraud last week. Those who did not plead guilty, including Loughlin and 15 other parents, were charged a day later with a count of conspiracy to commit money laundering.
The judge will likely allow for a plea to be entered on their behalf, but it’s still unclear what Loughlin and Giannulli are thinking. The feds have already flipped key people in this alleged conspiracy and have detailed evidence about the flow of money through it, which includes using a charitable foundation to hide the cash. A legal analyst describes to ABC the opportunity passed up by Loughlin et al by refusing the opportunity to limit her legal liability:
Loughlin’s attorneys had to know this was coming, so why didn’t they do their best to get her into a quick deal? CNN reported late last week that her attorneys never seriously engaged prosecutors on the question:
As Yahoo’s The Blast notes, the absentee not-guilty plea today signals that they’re still not interested in negotiations, for whatever reason:
Lori Loughlin and Mossimo Giannulli are clearly not trying to work out a deal with prosecutors, because they have both entered pleas of not guilty to all the charges against them.
Loughlin and Giannulli both filed waiver of appearance forms in their federal case, advising the court they do not want to appear for an arraignment on the second superseding indictment, and instead are pleading not guilty to “each of the charges” against them. …
It has been unclear which way Loughlin and Gianulli were going to go with their defense, but it now appears they are going to fight the charges head on. They are each facing 40 years in prison for the federal charges.
“Head on” might be the best description of the strategy, albeit it’s missing the crucial word “collision.” It’s one thing to enter into plea negotiations and come out thinking you’re better off trying to charm a jury. It’s another thing entirely to refuse to even seriously check out the path of least resistance, especially when prosecutors have the key inside people flipping on you. That’s one hell of a bet on the lasting affection from Full House and the Hallmark Channel, especially in a venue about as far from Hollywood as it gets.
It’s a game of chicken, but only one car has to worry about the devastating consequences, and it’s not the feds’ car. The earlier refusal to take this seriously has already undermined their negotiating position for any future deal, as Elie Honig told CNN in the first video. If they get the worst of the collision, prosecutors will just have to satisfy themselves with dozens of other convictions in the case. If not, Loughlin and Giannulli will have to satisfy themselves by producing prison plays and jailhouse fashion for the next several years.
Next up: charging the students. Will Loughlin and Massimo continue to play chicken when Olivia Jade has to enter a plea?