Actress Lori Laughlin — and 16 other parents — officially pleaded not guilty in a Boston federal court on Monday. The accused face bribery and fraud charges in relation to their alleged involvement in the so-called college admissions scandal, CNN reported.
The plea comes after Loughlin and her designer husband, Mossimo Giannulli, pleaded not guilty in court filings earlier this month. Prosecutors have said the couple paid $500,000 to a fake charity to get their two daughters accepted into the college. Specifically, the couple wanted their daughters to be accepted as new members of the USC crew team, even though the young women had not previously participated in the sport.
Some of the parents charged allegedly helped their children cheat on SATs and ACTs, while others reportedly bribed coaches.
Other parents who pleaded guilty include Gamal Abdelaziz, Diane Blake, Todd Blake, I-hsin Chen, Elizabeth Henriquez, Manuel Henriquez, Douglas Hodge, Michelle Janavs, Elisabeth Kimmel, William Mcglashan, Marci Palatella, David Sidoo, John Wilson, Homayoun Zadeh, and Robert Zangrillo, according to CNN.
On April 8, Felicity Huffman and 13 parents pleaded guilty in court filings. These defendants had faced charges including conspiracy to commit mail fraud. Huffman had faced charges for allegedly paying $15,000 to have her daughter’s SAT scores corrected. Huffman and the other parents reportedly pleaded guilty to a receive a lighter sentence. They are expected to officially plead guilty in May.
However, because Loughlin and others did not plead guilty, they were charged with an additional count of conspiracy and money laundering. This means that Loughlin and her cohort could face up to 40 years in prison.
The news outlet reported that evidence against Loughlin and Giannulli included proof from a witness cooperating in the case, bank records, and a recorded phone call with each parent.
Lori Loughlin and her husband pleaded not guilty in federal court on Monday in connection to the college admissions scandal.— CNN Newsource (@CNNNewsource) April 29, 2019
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Huffman took full responsibility for her actions, and offered an apology to her family, friends, and colleagues.
However, Loughlin and her husband have reportedly claimed that they did not know they were breaking the law, according to Fox News.
Criminal defense attorney David P. Shapiro weighed in on Loughlin’s defense, saying that it is weak.
“Claiming to have lacked the specific intent necessary to be convicted may be Ms. Loughlin’s only defense, albeit not a strong one given the pile of circumstantial evidence against her and her husband,” Shapiro, who does not represent the couple, said.
“That pile may likely turn into a mountain of evidence once more and more of the defendants flip in exchange for reduced sentences,” he added.
Shapiro said that the couple could spend years in federal prison if they are convicted of the crimes.