Lori Loughlin may have second thoughts about pleading not guilty in the college admissions scandal following Felicity Huffman’s 14-day sentence.
A source close to Loughlin told People that the former “Fuller House” star was “aware of Felicity’s sentence and is processing what that means for her.” The insider added of Huffman’s sentencing date Friday, “This has been a rough day. Lori is going to move forward as best as she can, but now she has a little more clarity about what will happen next.”
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Huffman, 56, was sentenced to 14 days behind bars after she pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit mail fraud and honest services mail fraud in May. She confessed to paying an admissions consultant $15,000 to have a proctor correct her older daughter’s answers on the SAT. She wrote that she’d considered the same for her younger daughter but decided against it.
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A judge also ordered Huffman to perform 250 hours of community service and pay a $30,000 fine.
Loughlin, 55, and husband Mossimo Giannulli were accused of paying $500,000 to admissions scam mastermind William “Rick” Singer to get their daughters Olivia Jade and Isabella recruited onto the USC crew team despite neither girl ever being a rower. USC put the girls’ enrollment statuses on hold amid an internal investigation into the scandal.
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The pair rejected the plea deal that other parents allegedly involved in the case — including Huffman — accepted. Giannulli, 56, and Loughlin then were hit with additional charges of money laundering and conspiracy and would face up to 40 years behind bars if convicted on all charges.
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“If she’s found guilty, she will go to jail; that is clear. And if another deal is offered to her, which I don’t think it will be, she will go to jail,” the source said.
“Her only chance of avoiding jail is to beat these charges. Lori is a smart woman; she understands that. She’s scared and upset, but she’s resolved to be strong and to fight this. She will do what she has to do to protect herself and her family.”
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The source admitted that Loughlin “regrets” not taking the plea agreement when prosecutors initially offered it but insisted Loughlin had no idea she did anything illegal when making the payments to Singer’s Key Worldwide Foundation.
“She didn’t understand the entire nature of the charges against her, and she wasn’t even sure if or how she had broken the law. It was very early, and she didn’t have all the information that she has now,” the source said. “Based on what she understood at the time, she made the best choice for herself. Now there is no deal on the table, and she has to have faith that the courts and the prosecution will move fairly and not make an example out of her.”
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Lori Loughlin, left, appearing in court in Boston this month. At right, Felicity Huffman leaving her sentencing in the college admissions scam case, dubbed “Operation Varsity Blues.”
Lori Loughlin, left, appearing in court in Boston this month. At right, Felicity Huffman leaving her sentencing in the college admissions scam case, dubbed “Operation Varsity Blues.” (Getty)
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Legal experts previously told Fox News that Loughlin’s and Giannulli’s strategy — essentially pleading ignorance to the scam — may not hold up in court.
“The government doesn’t have to prove that Loughlin and Giannulli knew what the payments were used for,” said attorney Neama Rahmani. “The fraudulent application to USC is enough to support the conspiracy charges. And there is more than enough circumstantial evidence to prove that they knew the payments were for an illicit or unlawful purpose.”
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What may work in Loughlin’s favor: the decision from the judge in Huffman’s case not to throw the book at the “Desperate Housewives” star because of her fame — though it may end up differently for Loughlin and Giannulli, who didn’t immediately take responsibility or show remorse for their alleged actions.
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U.S. District Court Judge Indira Talwani told a tearful Huffman during her sentencing, “I think this is the right sentence here. You can move forward and rebuild your life after this. Without this sentence, I think the community around you would ask why you got away with this.”