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Lori Loughlin Pleads Not Guilty in College Scam Case. What Happens Now?

On April 8, federal prosecutors announced that actress Felicity Huffman, along with 13 other defendants, would be pleading guilty to charges in connection with the college admissions scandal. But Lori Loughlin seems to be breaking rank with fellow defendants, with news breaking today that she and husband Mossimo Giannulli are submitting not guilty pleas.

So far, 36 parents total have been charged with conspiracy to commit mail fraud and honest services mail fraud in connection with this scheme. April 9, we learned that Loughlin and Giannulli are facing additional charges of conspiracy to commit fraud and money laundering. The couple was found to have disguised their payments to admissions scam ringleader Rick Singer as charitable donations, funneling funds through a “sham charity” called Key Worldwide Foundation.

Loughlin and Giannulli are both submitting not guilty pleas to these new charges, and have submitted requests for permission to waive their right to appear in Boston federal court to do so, preferring not to make the trip from Los Angeles. The couple is accused of paying bribes in the amount of $500,000 to secure their daughters’ admission to USC, and both parties face up to 20 years in prison if found guilty.

Some believe that Loughlin’s refusal to submit a guilty plea will have repercussions in the form of harsher sentencing. After Huffman and the other defendants’ guilty plea last week, the prosecution indicated they would “recommend incarceration at the ‘low end’ of the sentencing range” for those parties, and not bring further charges. For the defendants who did not submit guilty pleas, including Loughlin, the additional charges of fraud and money laundering were released the following day. According to CNN, the prosecution seems to be trying to “pressure defendants to plead guilty or face further charges.” The exact consequences for submitting a not guilty plea remain unclear.

When it comes to those who pled guilty, we have a slightly clearer idea of what comes next. Going by 2019 federal sentencing guidelines, laid out in the LA Times, experts believe Huffman will face four to 10 months in prison. According to Manny Medrano, defense attorney and former federal prosecutor, Huffman will receive this relatively light sentence because she has no previous criminal record, and the amount of money involved is “relatively small.” (According to the prosecutors in this case, Loughlin and Giannulli spent much more money — which bodes poorly for their sentencing.)

Louis Shapiro, an L.A. attorney, also notes that Loughlin isn’t “in a good place to negotiate,” since Huffman took a deal “that includes jail time on its face.” This makes sense: Huffman spent less money, is facing fewer charges, and accepted a plea deal: yet she’s still likely to end up in jail. So Loughlin and Giannulli, who seem to be legally worse off than Huffman on every point, are unlikely to avoid jail time of their own.

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