The spectacle of the college admissions scandal seems to be winding down, as last month defendants Lori Loughlin and husband Mossimo Giannulli officially plead guilty to fraud. The plea came after the couple maintained their innocence for months, even as fellow celebrity defendant Felicity Huffman admitted her crime and spent time in jail. After refusing for so long, why did Loughlin and Giannulli finally decide to change their plea to guilty?
The scandal broke last spring, when William “Rick” Singer, CEO of college counseling organization The Key, had helped children of wealthy clients cheat on exams such as SATs and ACTs. Singer was also accused of facilitating bribes between wealthy parents and college officials.
Along with Huffman, Loughlin and Mossimo were among the most famous parents accused of working with Singer to get their children spots in elite schools, including Georgetown, USC, UCLA, and Yale. While Huffman apologetically pleaded guilty, eventually serving nearly two weeks in prison, Loughlin and her husband maintained their innocence, saying that Singer misled them about the illegal nature of their financial contributions.
Why Did They Change Their Plea?
There are a few factors that might explain why Loughlin and Giannulli decided to change their plea. For one, their defense strategy largely rested on allegations that law enforcement had coerced Singer into fabricating evidence against them. In February, the couple’s attorney, Sean Berkowitz, unsuccessfully moved to postpone upcoming trial dates, alleging that Singer’s notes suggested that FBI agents directed him to lie about the bribes.
Berkowitz tried again in April to have the case dismissed, repeating that the couple was unaware the payments were illegal, and that Singer was coerced to testify against them. However, Judge Nathaniel Gorton denied the motion, saying that documents “categorically deny that any member for the investigative team ever directed Singer to lie, attempt to entrap suspects or elicit false admissions of guilt,” according to CNN.
While the failure of this legal strategy may have influenced the couple’s decision, the exhaustion of fighting a lengthy court battle might also play a role, say some sources.
“This experience has taken a huge emotional and physical toll on both of them,” a source close to the family reportedly told People.
The effect of the trial on the couple’s daughters, 20-year-old Olivia Jade and 21-year-old Bella, may also be a factor.
“The girls are terrified and want it to be over,” another inside source told People, via the Daily Mail.
What Lies Ahead
The new plea is part of a deal that would see Loughlin serving two months in prison and Giannulli serving five. These sentences are a large reduction of the maximum 25-year sentence that Loughlin faced if they had battled the charges, according to the Boston Globe.
Additionally, Loughlin would pay a $150,000 fine and do 100 hours of community service. Giannulli would have to pay $250,000 and complete 250 hours.
“Mossimo took the more active role of the two, and the money technically came from him,” a legal source reportedly told People of the Giannulli’s harsher sentence. “He dealt with Rick Singer more frequently and was the one who originally connected with him. Lori was a bit more passive, but she was aware of everything that Mossimo was doing.”
The plea deal is still awaiting the judge’s approval, reports People. Meanwhile, the couple’s sentencing hearing is scheduled to be held on August 21.
Why Did Lori Loughlin Change Her Plea? — Sources:
CNN – “The CEO behind the college admissions cheating scam wanted to help the wealthy. But that’s not all”
Los Angeles Times
CNN – “Judge denies motion to dismiss charges against Lori Loughlin in college admissions scandal”
CNN – “Lori Loughlin and 13 other defendants move to dismiss charges in college admissions scandal”
People – “Lori Loughlin & Mossimo Giannulli ‘Deeply Regret What They Did’ in College Admissions Scandal: Source”
People – “Lori Loughlin’s Bombshell Claim in College Admissions Case Could be ‘Prosecutor’s Nightmare’: Expert”