Lori Loughlin and husband Mossimo Giannulli hear their fate when they are sentenced under the terms of their separate plea deals.
Lori Loughlin and her fashion designer husband, Mossimo Giannulli, will serve brief terms in federal prison after they were formally sentenced Friday under the terms of their plea bargains on conspiracy charges in the nation’s college admissions scandal, described by the judge as a “breathtaking fraud.”
Loughlin, 56, was sentenced to two months in prison at an online hearing Friday in federal court in Boston conducted via Zoom by U.S. District Judge Nathaniel Gorton. Earlier, Giannulli, 57, was sentenced to five months in prison by Gorton.
Besides the prison term, Loughlin will pay a fine of $150,000, followed by two years of supervised release and 100 hours of community service. Giannulli will pay a fine of $250,000 followed by two years of supervised release and 250 hours of community service.
Both sentences were agreed to under the terms of the couple’s plea bargains negotiated with federal prosecutors earlier this year.
“I accept the … plea agreement negotiated by the government and Ms. Loughlin and I conclude that the agreed sentence … is sufficient but not greater than needed for punishment,” Gorton said. “There is no mystery about the outcome.”
Loughlin apologized, choking up a bit as she spoke via video link.
“I want to express how sorry I am. I made an awful decision, I went along with a plan to give my daughters unfair advantage in the college admissions process,” she said. “Though acting out of of love for my children, in reality I only diminished my daughters’ abilities and accomplishments and exacerbated inequities in education and in society in general,” she said.
“I have great faith in God and I believe in redemption. I will do everything in my power to redeem myself and use this as a catalyst to give back for the rest of my life. I am truly, profoundly and deeply sorry,” she said. “I am ready to face the consequences and make amends.”
Gorton told her he believes she is remorseful and that her statement was sincerely made, but he finds it difficult to understand the “avarice” of someone like Loughlin, who enjoyed all the best that life could offer but could still seek to grasp more, illegally.
“If we condone criminal conduct, no matter who commits it, we undermine the fabric of society,” he said. “I don’t understand why you and other defendants had the gall to do these things.”
Loughlin’s attorney, BJ Trach, argued though his client was less culpable than her husband or any other defendant in the scandal, nevertheless she takes full responsibility for her role.
But, he said, “This conduct was completely out of character for Lori,” adding that Loughlin’s Hollywood career is in ruins.
The judge said two letters were submitted to the court on Loughlin’s behalf but did not immediately describe their contents.
Earlier, Giannulli issued a statement at his sentencing.
“I deeply regret the harm that my actions have caused my daughters, my wife and others, I take full responsibility for my conduct and I am ready to accept the consequences and move forward with the lessons I’ve learned from this experience,” Giannulli told Gorton earlier Friday.
Giannulli’s lawyer, Sean Berkowitz, said that contrary to the assertion by prosecutor Kristin Kearney, Giannulli did not consider himself above the law. He said Giannulli “deeply regrets” what he did and involving his wife and two daughters in his crime.
“He’s a good man who made terrible mistakes that were criminal and he accepts full responsibility for those mistakes and crimes,” Berkowitz said.
Gorton told Giannulli he was convicted of a crime “motivated by hubris,” which he defined as “wanton pride.”
“I never know where to begin when I’m sentencing someone in the college admissions scandal, and it astonishes me every time I have to do it,” said the judge, who has handled many of the cases prosecuted in the scandal.
He told Giannulli that, unlike defendants he sentences in drug-dealing cases, he, Giannulli, could not claim a bad upbringing or ignorance of the law. If he could send drug dealers to prison, then it was right to send Giannulli to prison.
“You certainly did know better. You helped sponsor a breathtaking fraud on the nation’s system of education and involved your wife and daughters in (a plan) to scheme your daughters’ way into a university,” Gorton said, before officially pronouncing the sentence.
The judge said Loughlin and Giannulli have 90 days to surrender to the Bureau of Prisons to begin serving their sentences. As the request of their lawyers, Gorton said he recommended the bureau select a prison in California, close to their home, depending on security requirements.
The celebrity couple each pleaded guilty in May to one count of conspiracy to commit wire fraud and mail fraud, in separate plea agreements with federal prosecutors.
Lori Loughlin and her husband Mossimo Giannulli have agreed to plead guilty to conspiracy charges. (Photo: Getty)
On Monday, prosecutors in the case urged the judge to accept the plea deals. In a court filing, prosecutors argued the terms are comparable to the sentences other prominent parents charged in the case have received, while accounting for Loughlin and Giannulli’s “repeated and deliberate conduct” and their “decision to allow their children to become complicit in the crime.”
Prosecutors called Giannulli “the more active participant in the scheme,” while they said Loughlin “took a less active role, but was nonetheless fully complicit.”
The former star of the television series “Full House,” and her husband, whose fashion line was popular at Target, were among the most famous of dozens of wealthy and influential parents charged by federal prosecutors last year with lying and cheating to get their children into elite universities.
Loughlin and Giannulli were accused of paying $500,000 in bribes to the mastermind of a nationwide admissions scheme, Rick Singer, to get their two daughters, Olivia Jade Giannulli and Isabella Giannulli, accepted into the University of Southern California as fake crew recruits.
Lori Loughlin, Felicity Huffman (Photo: Frazer Harrison, Getty Images)
The couple asserted their innocence from the time they were arrested in March 2019. For more than a year, their attorneys mounted a vigorous defense seeking dismissal of the case, arguing Loughlin and Giannulli believed they were making “legitimate donations” to USC, not bribing college officials.
They kept to that position until May, when they agreed to plead guilty after prosecutors dropped bribery and money laundering charges, which could have brought them lengthier prison terms.
By contrast, “Desperate Housewives” star Felicity Huffman agreed to a plea bargain a few months after her arrest and was sentenced to 14 days in prison, a $30,000 fine, supervised release for one year and 250 hours of community service for paying $15,000 to have someone correct answers on the SAT exam of one of her two daughters.
At the time of plea bargain, she issued a statement of contrition in which she said she felt “deep regret and shame” for the pain she caused by her actions. She began serving her sentence in federal prison in California in September 2019 and was released after 11 days.
Like other parents charged in the “Varsity Blues” case, Loughlin and Giannulli were charged with funneling money through a sham charity operated by Singer.
Singer, who also pleaded guilty, began cooperating with investigators in September 2018 and secretly recorded his phone calls with parents to build the case against them.
Giannulli “engaged more frequently with Singer, directed the bribe payments to USC and Singer, and personally confronted his daughter’s high school counselor to prevent the scheme from being discovered, brazenly lying about his daughter’s athletic abilities,” prosecutors told the judge.
In that instance, Giannulli angrily confronted the counselor after the counselor began questioning the girls’ involvement in crew, prosecutors said. Giannulli demanded that the counselor explain what he was telling USC about his daughters and asked the counselor why he was “trying to ruin or get in the way of their opportunities,” the counselor wrote in notes detailed in court documents.
After the couple successfully bribed their younger daughter’s way into USC, Singer forward them an email saying she was let in because of her “potential to make a significant contribution to the intercollegiate athletic program,” prosecutors wrote.
Loughlin responded: “This is wonderful news! (high-five emoji),” according to court filings.
Contributing: Joey Garrison, USA TODAY, The Associated Press
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