The coronavirus pandemic is causing adjustments to be made in all aspects of our lives, including the justice system. Some people who have been convicted of crimes and are now waiting to enter prison to serve their sentences find themselves waiting longer.
Thanks to the pandemic outbreak, Hot Pockets heiress Michelle Janavs does not have to surrender Thursday as she was previously ordered to do. Janavs was sentenced to five months behind bars for paying Rick Singer, a college admissions counselor, $300,000 to provide phony college qualifications for her two daughters. She lives in Newport Beach, California. She pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit mail and wire fraud.
Those frozen sandwiches made Janavs and her family very wealthy. She asked for home confinement but was denied by U.S. District Judge Nathaniel Gorton. Who wouldn’t want to remain in a fabulous home in Newport Beach instead of in a concrete cubicle for however long she ends up serving? She probably won’t serve the whole five months as others have been let out early, using time good behavior or overcrowding as a reason for early releases. For example, Felicity Huffman was sentenced to 14 days and served 11 days.
The judge isn’t planning to let her off completely, mind you, he’s just postponing her sentence because of the coronavirus.
“The COVID-19 pandemic is an unprecedented and continually evolving cause of concern and the Court is cognizant of the particular transmission risk in penitentiary facilities,” Gorton wrote in a ruling handed down Thursday.
However, “this judge will not forfeit his obligation to impose a sentence that is warranted by a defendant’s criminal conduct.”
Gorton left the door open for another delay if the outbreak hasn’t improved by this summer.
“If the public health crisis has not abated by the time of the extended report date, the court will entertain further motions,” the federal judge in Boston wrote.
Another parent caught up in the FBI’s undercover operation who lucks out due to the pandemic outbreak is Douglas Hodge, the ex-CEO of Pacific Investment Management Co. He is sentenced to nine months, the longest sentence to date.
Janavs was sentenced to five months in prison after admitting to paying the consultant at the center of the scheme $100,000 to have a proctor correct her two daughters’ ACT exam answers. She also agreed to pay $200,000 to have one of her daughters labeled as a fake beach volleyball recruit at USC but was arrested before she was formally admitted, prosecutors said.
Hodge paid bribes totaling $850,000 — from 2008 until 2012 — to get four of his children into USC and Georgetown University as fake athletic recruits, prosecutors said. Hodge is appealing his nine-month sentence, which is the harshest punishment handed out so far in the case.
Both parents had their lawyers argue that it is too dangerous to send them to prison. The coronavirus is running rampant in prisons and jails. Attorney General Barr has advised officials to consider moving non-violent prisoners to home confinement when possible to help limit the spread of the virus.
Is it a big deal that these two parents are delaying their time in prison? No. They fall into the non-violent category. They are just wealthy and privileged parents who felt entitled and wanted to give their kids a leg up with college admissions. Unfortunately, bribing coaches and admissions directors and doctoring their kids’ resumes isn’t the legal way to go. And, since it is unlikely that their kids would have been accepted on their true qualifications, their acceptance into the schools denied a slot to a qualified applicant.
Some people who were serving time for other non-violent offenses have been let out of prison due to the coronavirus. Stormy Daniels’ lawyer Michael Avenatti was released in April but must return to prison in 90 days. Michael Cohen, Trump’s former attorney, was told two weeks ago by the Federal Bureau of Prisons that he’d be let out of prison early but that order has now been rescinded. Other prisoners had their privilege of early release rescinded, too. No reason has been given.