Prosecutors in the college admissions scam case have turned up the heat this week. Several defendants who refused to take a plea deal — like Full House star Lori Loughlin — were hit with new charges this week. Loughlin is now facing up to 50 years in prison with these new bribery charges. Will that be enough to convince her to reverse her ‘not guilty’ plea?
On Tuesday, a grand jury in Boston charged 11 defendants with conspiring to commit federal program bribery. This charge refers specifically to parents who bribed university employees in exchange for their children to be admitted under “favored admission categories,” like athletic recruits. (Loughlin had both her daughters admitted to USC as crew recruits, despite neither daughter playing the sport.)
In addition to these new bribery charges, Loughlin and husband Mossimo Giannulli face charges of money laundering conspiracy and conspiracy to commit mail and wire fraud. Previously, they faced up to 40 years in prison — with these new charges, which carry a maximum penalty of 10 years in federal prison, they face up to 50.
There’s always a chance Loughlin and Giannulli won’t be found guilty on these charges. But the evidence presented is fairly damning. As reported by Deadline, here’s a quote from the court filing:
On or about November 29, 2018, Singer called LOUGHLIN from Boston, Massachusetts. During the call, Singer said, in sum and substance, that KWF was being audited by the IRS, which was asking about the two payments of $200,000 by the GIANNULLIS. Singer added: “So I just want to make sure that you know that, one, that you’re probably going to get a call and that I have not told them anything about the girls going through the side door, through crew, even though they didn’t do crew to get into USC. So I-that is-all I told them was that you guys made a donation to our foundation to help underserved kids.” LOUGHLIN replied, “Um-hmm.”
Federal prosecutors have brought new bribery charges against Lori Loughlin and 10 other parents who pleaded not guilty in the college admissions case, signaling an effort to increase potential consequences for parents who intend to fight the accusationshttps://t.co/3048iaXhtq
— The New York Times (@nytimes) October 22, 2019
NPR reports that 29 of the 52 defendants in the admissions scandal have pleaded guilty. Those who haven’t — again, like Loughlin and Giannulli — face more pressure to do so every day. Earlier this month, U.S. Attorney Andrew Lelling made it clear that defendants who took a plea instead of going to trial would face a more lenient sentence.
“If it is after trial, we would ask for something substantially higher,” said Lelling (higher than Felicity Huffman’s sentence of 14 days, that is). “If she resolved it before trial, something lower than that.”
So, how’s Aunt Becky taking the news? A source tells People that Loughlin has been severely shaken by these new charges. “She is angry, she is sad, but most of all, she is terrified …It just gets worse and worse for her. And you have to remember: nothing new has happened. They could have charged her with all of this last spring. But they waited …She feels like she is a scapegoat.”
We’re not sure where she’s getting “scapegoat” from, given the evidence against her and the fact that other parents are facing identical charges. But it’s true that no other defendants are facing this level of public scrutiny, and we recognize the toll that must take.
“The entire family is in chaos right now,” the source tells People. “Now that the charges are official, they are realizing that there is no way to avoid a moderately long prison sentence, unless they are found not guilty in a trial.”
Assuming this source is correct, it sounds like Loughlin and Giannulli have no plans to take a plea deal. By sticking with their ‘not guilty’ plea, they risk the maximum penalty of 50 years — but knowing that they’d face prison time either way, it seems the couple would rather risk their fate in a trial than back down.