By Stella Lorence
BU News Service
Actress Lori Loughlin was sentenced to two months in prison and a fine of $150,000 during a remote sentencing hearing through the U.S. District Court in Massachusetts on Friday for her role in the college admissions scandal.
“I made an awful decision,” Loughlin said, tearing up, in her statement before the court. “I am truly, profoundly and deeply sorry. I’m ready to face the consequences and make amends.”
The “Full House” actress and her fashion designer husband Mossimo Giannulli pleaded guilty to conspiracy charges after they paid to have their daughters admitted to the University of Southern California as crew recruits. Neither daughter had rowed competitively before.
Giannulli was sentenced to five months in prison with two years of supervised release and a fine of $250,000 as part of a negotiated plea deal.
Loughlin and Giannulli were sentenced by Judge Nathaniel Gorton, who has sentenced six other defendants in the scandal. Gorton told Loughlin that with each college admission sentence, he is “more dumbfounded” because of the nature and motivations of the crime.
“You have participated in the corruption of the higher education system in this country,” Gorton told Loughlin. “[Yours is] a fairytale life, yet you stand before me a convicted felon. And for what? To grab even more.”
William Trach, Loughlin’s defense attorney, argued that Loughlin had a much more passive role in the scandal than her husband.
“I think it’s fair to say that out of all the parents in this investigation, Lori had the least involvement,” Trach said, adding that because of her celebrity, “Lori has been the undisputed face of the scandal.”
Government Prosecutor Kristen Kearney pointed to the fact that Giannulli took part in the scheme twice as evidence of his “complete disregard for right and wrong.” Kearney said Giannulli lied multiple times to his daughters’ high school counselor, pushing back when the counselor questioned whether his daughter was actually a coxswain.
“Giannulli’s interactions with his daughters’ high school counselor demonstrate a privileged and entitled attitude for which prison is the only leveller,” Kearney said.
Both Loughlin and Giannulli’s defense attorneys gave the same account of the couple’s involvement in the scandal. Not having gone to college themselves, Loughlin and Giannulli approached the chair of the Board of Trustees at their daughters’ school to ask for advice on the admissions process. They were referred to William “Rick” Singer, the leader of the broader college admissions scheme. Singer tutored both daughters for about a year, before approaching Giannulli in April of 2016 about his “side-door” scheme, in which the girls would gain admission through false athletic recruitments.
“[Giannulli] is a good man who made terrible mistakes that were criminal, and he regrets them,” said Sean Berkowitz, Giannulli’s defense attorney.
Singer, of Newport Beach, California, coordinated schemes through two business fronts. One was a nonprofit corporation called Key Worldwide Foundation, which Singer purported to be a charity. Some parents paid Singer under the guise of tax-deductible donations to KWF and Singer used the money to bribe coaches to admit students as false athletic recruits.
Loughlin and Giannulli’s daughters have been bullied in person and on social media following their parents’ indictments, and both were made to leave USC.
Over 50 parents, coaches and other conspirators were charged in the nationwide, seven-year scandal, which was codenamed “Varsity Blues” by the FBI.
Of those 50, 24 have been sentenced, including Loughlin and Giannulli. Sentences have ranged from a few weeks in prison to up to nine months.
“I never know where to begin when I sentence someone in this college admissions scandal,” Gorton said in Giannulli’s hearing. He explained that the college admissions crimes are “motivated by hubris” and different from the crimes of the many “drug dealers” and “people who grew up in squalor” that he usually sees.
“You are an informed, smart, successful businessman,” Gorton told Giannulli. “You did know better.”