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Prosecutors Weren’t as ‘Happy’ with Felicity Huffman’s Sentence as Claimed, Open to Deal with Lori Loughlin: Report


Lori Loughlin loophole

Federal prosecutors issued a warning and Felicity Huffman’s light sentence offered a glimmer of hope, so will Full House actress Lori Loughlin cut a plea deal or will she move forward with the plan to take her chances in court? Ever since Loughlin and her husband Mossimo Giannulli first rejected a plea deal in “Operation Varsity Blues,” questions like this have been asked but not answered. Is that about to change?

TMZ claims that U.S. Attorney Andrew Lelling wasn’t being completely truthful when he said recently that prosecutors were satisfied with the 14-day prison sentence that Huffman received. In case you missed it, Lelling said that, at the end of the day, prosecutors were “happy” with the “thoughtful” Huffman sentence.

“One of the things we look to was how much money was involved. She spent about $15,000 to have her daughter get a fake SAT score,” Lelling said. “There’s a few things working in her favor. She took responsibility almost immediately. She was contrite. Did not try to minimize her conduct. I think she handled it in a classy way. And so, at the end of the day, we thought the one-month was proportional.”

“I think the two weeks she got was reasonable,” he added. “We were happy with that. I think it was thoughtful sentence.” Lelling said that the Huffman sentencing importantly meant that even one of the “least culpable defendant” was getting prison time.

TMZ is painting a different picture. The tabloid claims that, actually, the Huffman sentence has the U.S. attorney unnerved to the point that he’s willing to extend another plea deal to Loughlin and Giannulli, so as to avoid potential “embarrassment.” The bottom line is that it’s being suggested Loughlin may not go to trial after all because the U.S. attorney also has some risk assessment to do:

Prosecutors, we’re told, are worried it will become an embarrassment for the office if Lori goes to trial, gets convicted and gets a short sentence. And remember, Felicity rigged an SAT test that potentially affects every applicant. With Lori, even though she paid way more ($500,000), the bribe didn’t really affect anyone else.

Sources with direct knowledge on the subject tell us the U.S. Attorney is open to plea discussions, and that is far more likely now that a possible sentence for Lori could be measured in weeks and not years. Remember, if you look just at the charges, Lori faces a maximum of 40 years. It won’t look good if prosecutors go to trial, win a conviction and she gets 3 or 4 weeks behind bars.

One of the factors mentioned was that “Lori’s big break came with the probation department’s sentencing report for Felicity,” which said that “no one suffered a loss as a result of the actress’s conduct.”

The facts of these cases are quite different, though, so it’s no guarantee Loughlin and Giannulli’s alleged actions would be viewed the same way. That’s because Loughlin and Giannulli allegedly paid more than 30 times as much money in bribes than Huffman did ($500,000 vs. $15,000) and created fake rowing profiles to get their daughters admitted to USC as crew recruits. The thinking there could be that a false admission for crew might have cost a legitimate crew recruit/applicant a spot they otherwise might have gotten if the system wasn’t rigged. But it’s one thing to argue that, and it’s another to prove it. There’s also the possibility, since prosecutors have described USC as a victim, that the defendants’ alleged actions would be framed as harming the university. But would a judge and jury find that argument persuasive — given that USC employees played a role in the admissions scam? TMZ appears to be suggesting that these are the kinds of things prosecutors are considering.

On a related note, it is now confirmed that the couple’s daughters Isabella Giannulli and Olivia Jade Giannulli are no longer enrolled at USC.

Loughlin and Giannulli have pleaded not guilty conspiracy to commit mail and wire fraud, honest services mail and wire fraud, and conspiracy to commit money laundering.

[Image via Image via YouTube screengrab]

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Matt Naham is the Senior A.M. Editor of Law&Crime.