An Ohio mom convicted and sent to prison for her role in a school admissions scandal is speaking out about comparisons between her case and that of Hollywood actress Felicity Huffman.
Kelley Williams-Bolar, of Akron, was sentenced in 2011 to serve 10 days in jail after using her father’s address to falsify residency for her two daughters, allowing them to enroll illegally in a school district that posted better student test scores than the district in which they actually lived.
The boost Williams-Bolar wanted to give her kids — and the punishment she received — was cited by prosecutors who urged jail time for Huffman, the Desperate Housewives star whose defense urged probation after Huffman pleaded guilty to paying $15,000 for a consultant to inflate her daughter’s SAT scores in a college admissions cheating scandal.
“If a poor single mom from Akron who is actually trying to provide a better education for her kids should go to jail, there is no reason that a wealthy mother with the resources should not also go to jail,” prosecutor Eric Rosen told U.S. District Court Judge Indira Talwani before Huffman was sentenced Friday in a Boston courtroom, reports NBC News.
Huffman, 56, ultimately was ordered to spend 14 days in jail, pay a $30,000 fine and perform 250 hours of community service. She also will be placed on supervised release for one year.
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In addition to her own 10-day jail sentence, Williams-Bolar’s conviction for tampering with records earned her a punishment that included 80 hours of community service and two years’ probation, reports the Akron Beacon Journal.
“Her 14 days being fair … I cannot be the judge of that, and I wouldn’t judge her for that,” Williams-Bolar told Cleveland TV station WKYC.
But the punishments both have been dissected for what they may suggest about disparities in status, class, race and access to education. Williams-Bolar’s case propelled her to a spot on the Dr. Phil show, and after the Ohio parole board declined to pardon her crime, then-Gov. John Kasich reduced her two convictions to misdemeanors, reports the Journal Beacon.
“When it first ran across my timeline, my eyebrows kind of went up,” Williams-Bolar says of the charges against Huffman and others, including fellow actress Lori Loughlin, who were among 50 people named March 12 by the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Massachusetts as participants in the cheating scandal.
The two actresses, along with coaches, counselors, parents, and Loughlin’s husband, fashion designer J. Mossimo Giannulli, were indicted on accusations of falsifying test scores and lying about the athletic skills of their children, among other alleged crimes, to boost their appeal on college admissions applications. (Loughlin and Giannulli have pleaded not guilty.)
Prosecutors said Huffman paid $15,000 to admissions consultant William “Rick” Singer and his nonprofit organization, Key Worldwide Foundation (KWF), which prosecutors said was a front for accepting bribes. Singer then arranged for cheating on Huffman’s daughter’s SAT test by having a proctor correct the teen’s answers after the fact.
Williams-Bolar recalled that her own case of intentionally thwarting district residency regulations to give her girls a perceived boost “made a big rift in the community.” On the stand, she had testified, “How far would you go to protect the safety of your children? My job, as a parent, is to make sure that my girls are safe and secure,” reports WKYC.
Seeing the wide-ranging charges that more recently ensnared the elite group of parents, “I was shocked a little bit,” she says.
But Williams-Bolar says she recognized the effort to apply justice for Huffman that was somewhat consistent with to the penalty Williams-Bolar had received eight years earlier. “We have flaws,” she says, “and they need to be addressed. And this situation here was a case in point.”