CLEVELAND — Fuller House star Lori Loughlin, her husband Mossimo Giannulli and nine other parents involved in the college admissions scandal have now also been charged with conspiring to commit federal programs bribery by bribing University of Southern California employees to help their children get into USC, according to the Department of Justice.
3News’ Legal Analyst Stephanie Haney sat down with Jay Crawford and Hollie Strano on Lunch Break to beak down whether Loughlin still has a defense and what might happen moving forward.
While the government is doing a good job at slow playing these charges rolling out, even with this new charge the prosecution will still have to prove that Loughlin and the others involved knew what they were doing was illegal, Haney said.
Loughlin’s attorneys have been saying all along that she didn’t know she was doing anything wrong when she and her husband paid $500,000 to Rick Singer’s Key Worldwide Foundation to help their daughters get into USC.
Singer, the mastermind behind the scandal, has already pleaded guilty to his charges and is cooperating with federal authorities.
“Who knows what kind of proof they have from him. But I’m guessing it’s good,” Haney said.
Loughlin and those that have continued to hold out from entering into a plea deal may try to argue that the massive amounts of money paid to Singer are similar to other huge donations made to schools, by wealthy parents who want to give their children an advantage in admission.
“They can try to argue that they thought that they were simply making a big donation, and some would say there isn’t much difference in terms of cause and effect, but legally speaking there are two big differences here: Who they paid and where the money went,” Haney said.
Loughlin paid money to a third party group without any ties to USC, to help her daughters, Oliva Jade and Isabella Giannulli, gain admission to the school. While donations are made to third party groups all the time, like alumni and athletics associations, those groups are often directly tied to the school and the money supports the schools’ programs.
The fact that Key Worldwide Foundation had no tie to USC raises a big red flag around what Loughlin knew was happening, because it raises the question of where she intended the money to go. We already know the money went to individuals, not to the school.
Moving forward, there is still a chance for Loughlin and the others to agree to a plea deal.
This is the third round of charges to come out since the DOJ went public with the Varsity Blues investigation. “We have a lot more information now on all sides, including how Felicity Huffman’s case went,” Haney said.
Huffman pleaded guilty early in the investigation and was sentenced to 14 days in jail (which she I currently serving), plus one year of probation, a $30,000 fine and community service.
There were four more parents who agreed to a plea deal before these latest charges came out. “Soon, we’ll know what those parents were sentenced to, as well,” Haney said.
Each conspiracy to commit bribery charge carries a possible sentence of up to five years in prison. Loughlin and Giannulli both pleaded not guilty in the spring to fraud and money laundering charges. With those possible sentences combined, the two each now face up to 50 years in prison if convicted.
“Fifty years is a lot of motivation to strike a plea deal,” Haney said.
Watch the video here to check out the segment, and catch the entire episode in the player below:
You can lunch with us by commenting on our live streams and tweeting with us during the show using #3lunchbreak.
Keep the conversation going for a chance to have your questions and comments shared on the air.