The parents who allegedly paid bribes to get their children into prestigious colleges face the possibility of jail time if convicted, according to legal experts.
Hollywood stars Lori Loughlin and Felicity Huffman are affluent defendants, and will most likely be able to afford the very best legal representation. They are also most likely first-time offenders, two factors which usually lead to lighter sentencing.
They are changed with conspiracy to commit mail fraud and honest services mail fraud, a count that carries up to 20 years in prison. However, these are not typically the “type of offenses for which a judge would put people in jail,” former federal prosecutor Jacob Frenkel told the Associated Press.
Former assistant U.S. attorney Jeffrey Cramer agreed, saying that most parents in this situation would get a fine and community service.
Cramer told the Associated Press that the difficult part for the judge hearing the case would be that most of the accused — had they known that breaking the law would carry a $200,000 penalty and community service — may still have deemed the act to be worth it, in order to get their child into an elite university.
“You cannot have a criminal justice system where at the end of the day the crime was worth doing.”
With the federal judge setting the bail for Huffman and Loughlin at $250,000 and $1 million respectively, according to Forbes, it is clear the charges are not to be taken lightly.
Ilene Jaroslaw is a former federal prosecutor who is now a white-collar defense attorney. She has a hard time believing that a judge will be sympathetic to the defendant’s plight, due to their economic privilege.
“I expect that you’re going to see a number of these people spend some time in jail to send a message,” she told reporters.
That message being, per New York criminal defense lawyer Matthew Galluzzo, that “you can get away with anything if you have money.”
The high-profile case has caused a media frenzy, and actress Lori Loughlin has already felt the repercussions of her alleged actions.
According to Forbes, Loughlin has been dropped by both the Hallmark Channel and by Netflix’s Fuller House.
Defendants may choose to take the case to trial in an effort to exonerate themselves.
That may prove difficult, given claims that secretly recorded conversations between Rick Singer and many of the defendants exist. Singer is the consultant at the heart of the scandal, a man who facilitated the alleged bribes. Singer confessed to racketeering conspiracy and other charges earlier in the month.
The U.S. Justice Department’s investigation, dubbed Operation Varsity Blues, compiled what the Associated Press described as “mountains of evidence” — including emails, bank records, and flight records.
“The defenses are about as viable as each of the benefiting kids making the varsity sports team,” Frenkel said.