Remember that incredibly secure feeling the nation had when Felicity Huffman did two weeks in prison for her role in Operation Varsity Blues? Get ready for two more months of peace now that Lori Loughlin and Mossimo Giannulli have cut a deal and cut their losses with federal prosecutors. On the other hand, looking at the deal, it’s tough to figure which side wanted to cut its losses in the college admissions scandal case:
Lori Loughlin and her husband, Mossimo Giannulli, have agreed to a plea deal in connection with their involvement in the college admissions scandal.
The “Full House” actress and the fashion designer will serve two months in prison, pay a $150,000 fine and have two years of supervised release with 100 hours of community service for conspiracy charges, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office in the District of Massachusetts.
Er … huh? That’s not all that much different than what the Department of Justice got from Huffman, who put up much less of a fight. When Loughlin and Giannulli started fighting the original charges, prosecutors ramped up their case by adding on counts that could have gotten the two several years in prison and perhaps millions of dollars in fines. Clearly they wanted to get more leverage on Loughlin and Giannulli, even if it felt very much like wildly over-prosecuting the couple for getting suckered by a huckster.
That doesn’t feel exactly like a win for the DOJ, especially given this set of parents’ much-larger investment in Rick Singer’s fraudulent scheme. Huffman paid $15,000 for corrupting an admissions test for one of her children and got two weeks at Club Fed. Loughlin and Giannulli spent $500,000 to get two daughters into USC and faked an athletic history to defraud the school. Loughlin got a sentence four times longer than Huffman for offenses that seem much more than four times greater, at least under the prosecution’s theory of the case. CNN reports, as does the NYT, that Giannulli will do five months and pay $250,000, but that’s still not very much for all of this effort.
How much did it cost the DoJ to run down this couple just to get a few more weeks of work-farm imprisonment out of them? I’d guess it cost a lot more than the $400,000 combined fine, which will be a drop in the bucket for Giannulli. This looks like both sides cutting losses and closing out embarrassing chapters in a strange case in which the real perps cut the best deals up front.
At some point, the Department of Justice needs to explain why they cut deals with Rick Singer and some of the corrupt school officials and went after the parents. No one’s an angel in this case, but shouldn’t prosecutors have actually targeted the people who profited off this scheme, rather than the morons who valued prestige over common sense?
Update: Maybe we shouldn’t expect a peaceful feeling on this at all. How does the DoJ propose to explain why Loughlin and Giannulli should go to prison in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic when they let Paul Manafort out on home confinement to serve a much longer term on much more serious charges? A couple of other Varsity Blues defendants have had their sentences deferred already for the same reason. If Manafort can do his time with an ankle bracelet to avoid the plague, why not Aunt Becky?
Update: Speaking of which, Michael Cohen got the ankle-bracelet treatment today, too:
— NBC News (@NBCNews) May 21, 2020
This was supposed to have happened three weeks ago, and Manafort’s release ahead of Cohen’s raised questions about potential favoritism. It now raises questions about jail time for people involved in this scam who didn’t see any monetary profit from it. It’s not that they don’t deserve some form of punishment, but if we’re letting out perjurers and major fraudsters on the basis of health risk, why would we send Loughlin and Giannulli in to replace them?