College admissions scandal: Prosecutors seek 10-month jail sentence for actor Felicity Huffman

Kate Taylor

Prosecutors plan to argue that Hollywood actress Felicity Huffman should get a prison sentence between four and 10 months for paying a college consultant to arrange for cheating on her daughter’s SATs, court documents show.

The prosecutors plan to push for the low end of that range.

The prosecutors’ recommendation for prison time in the case of Ms Huffman, among the best-known of 33 parents charged in what the US Justice Department has said is its largest-ever college admissions prosecution, offers insight into a question that has lingered over the case: will some of the wealthy and well-connected parents implicated in the scandal end up serving time?

Ms Huffman said last week that she intended to plead guilty to conspiracy to commit mail fraud and honest services mail fraud.

In a plea agreement, prosecutors said that Ms Huffman’s crime corresponded to a federal sentencing guideline of four to 10 months in prison and that they would recommend a sentence at the low end of that range, along with a fine of $20,000 (£15,330) and 12 months of supervised release.

The federal sentencing guidelines are advisory, and judges may impose sentences that are either heavier or lighter than the advised range.

The plea agreement also notes that Ms Huffman “reserves the right to argue” that her crime actually corresponds to a lower guideline — of zero to six months of incarceration.

According to the charges, Ms Huffman paid $15,000 (£11,500) to William Singer, a consultant at the centre of the case, so that a proctor would correct some of her daughter’s answers on the SAT after the girl had finished the test and left.

Mr Singer has pleaded guilty to racketeering and other charges.

Ms Huffman’s daughter, who was apparently unaware of her mother’s plan and to whom Ms Huffman has publicly apologised, is still in high school.

Twelve other parents charged in the case have said that they will plead guilty.

Prosecutors are arguing for longer sentences than the one proposed for Huffman in the cases of several of the other parents, because they are accused of paying more money as part of the scheme.

In the case of Bruce Isackson, who has agreed to plead guilty to conspiracy to commit fraud and money laundering and to defraud the United States, prosecutors have said they will recommend a sentence at the low end of a guidelines range of 37-46 months.

Prosecutors accused Mr Isackson and his wife, Davina, of paying Mr Singer a total of $600,000 (£460,000) to facilitate cheating on the ACT for one daughter and to get two daughters admitted to the University of California at Los Angeles and the University of Southern California as athletic recruits.

More than a dozen other parents, including actress Lori Loughlin and her husband, designer Mossimo Giannulli, have pleaded not guilty.

The US attorney’s office in Boston charged 50 people in the case, including college coaches and administrators of the SAT and the ACT.

The New York Times