A federal judge in Boston sentenced actor Felicity Huffman to 14 days in prison and community service Friday for paying thousands to get her daughter admitted to college.
In addition to the prison time, she must pay a $30,000 fine, and serve 250 hours of community service and one year of supervised release, U.S. District Judge Indira Talwani said.
“She knew it was a fraud,” the judge said. “It was not an impulsive act.”
Talwani ordered Huffman to appear to the Bureau of Prisons on Oct. 25 to begin her prison sentence.
“I think you take your sentence and you move forward,” Talwani told Huffman. “You can rebuild your life after this. You’ve paid your dues.”
Huffman is the first parent to be sentenced in the college admissions scandal, which engulfed several wealthy, high-profile parents.
The Desperate Housewives star admitted to paying the ringleader of the scandal, Rick Singer, $15,000 to correct wrong answers on her oldest daughter’s SAT. The cheating improved her daughter’s score 400 points from the PSAT she’d taken the previous year.
Huffman’s legal team sought no prison time.
Speaking in court Friday, Huffman apologized to the judge, her husband, actor William H. Macy, and her two daughters.
“I am deeply ashamed of what I have done. At the end of the day I had a choice to make. I could have said ‘no.’
“I take full responsibility. I will accept whatever punishment you give me.”
Prosecutors showed that the universities and testing companies involved in the scandal suffered losses because of the actions of Huffman and others. But the court’s probation department didn’t find a victim in the case.
“There is no excuse for what she did,” Assistant U.S. Attorney Eric Rosen said Friday.
“Most parents have the moral compass and integrity not to step over the line. The defendant did not.”
Huffman said her daughter had learning disabilities and she went looking for a guidance counselor who could help her get into the college of her choice. That’s how she met Singer, who recommended the cheating scheme.
“As warped as this sounds now, I honestly began to feel that maybe I would be a bad mother if I didn’t do what Mr. Singer was suggesting,” Huffman said before her sentencing. “In my desperation to be a good mother I talked myself into believing that all I was doing was giving my daughter a fair shot. I see the irony of that statement now because what I have done is the opposite of fair. I have broken the law, deceived the education community, betrayed my daughter and failed my family.”
Fifty-one people have been charged in the scandal, including actress Lori Loughlin. They’re accused of paying more than $25 million collectively to Singer to promote their children as fake athletes with scholarships or to cheat on the SAT. So far, 23 people, including parents, coaches and Singer have pleaded guilty to felonies.
Former Stanford University sailing coach John Vandemoer pleaded guilty to accepting $610,000 in bribes to recruit potential sailing applicants to Stanford. He served one day in prison.
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