As the college admissions scandal continues to unravel, all eyes are on Lori Loughlin after she pleaded not guilty in connection to the scheme. One possible reason she did so? The actress and her husband Mossimo Giannulli truly didn't grasp that what they were doing was illegal, a source told People.
“You read the complaint and they look like criminal masterminds,” the source said. “But they really didn’t know the legalities of what was going on. They’re not lawyers and they’re not experts. They were parents who simply wanted to make sure that their daughters got into a good school.”
The actress and her husband have been accused of paying a $500,000 bribe to have their two daughters designated as recruits to the USC crew team, despite the fact that neither of them played the sport.
People's source said that Loughlin "never intended to break any laws, and if she did, it was inadvertent,” adding that Loughlin and Giannulli really thought their actions were no different from other parents who go above and beyond to help their kids get into elite schools.
“Calling in favors, donating money to the alumni association, hiring consultants. Those are all things that parents do,” says the source. “And so they gave money to this consultant, not entirely knowing everything that was going to be done. When it all fell apart, nobody was as surprised as they were that they were in trouble.”
Earlier this month, former assistant U.S. attorney Mimi Rocah (who is not involved with the college admissions case) told InStylethat Loughlin's defense in the case could be that she didn't know her actions could be illegal, though that could be hard to prove.
"I haven’t looked enough at the facts to really be able to say for sure, but commonly, if you’re a defense attorney, these are all specific intent crimes where you’re going to have to show that she knew that she was doing something illegal even if she didn’t know the exact elements of the law she was breaking," she said at the time. "It’s hard to argue that she didn’t, but that could be an argument — a good defense attorney can rely on showing that the government hasn’t proven its case."
Prosecutors in the case have acknowledged that there are emails and calls between Loughlin and her husband and a cooperating witness, in which a "game plan" is discussed for getting the girls into USC, and Loughlin was caught on wiretapped tape discussing the scheme.
If People's source is anything to go by, however, it sounds like Loughlin and Giannulli are sticking to their defense of not knowing about the legalities of their situation.
“When they fight this, they’re going to give a lot more nuance and mitigating circumstances that will help put their alleged actions into context,” the source says. “The bottom line is that they just didn’t realize that what they were doing was illegal.”