Felicity Huffman will learn Friday how she will be punished for her role in a massive college admissions scandal that exposed how well-heeled parents paid a college fixer to get their children into elite universities.
The Oscar-nominated actress, 56, is set to be sentenced in federal court after pleading guilty in May to paying thousands of dollars to boost her daughter’s college admission hopes. She pleaded guilty to committing mail fraud and honest services fraud.
Federal prosecutors have said that she should serve a month in prison and pay a $20,000 fine. And while probation officials did not explicitly recommend a sentence for Huffman, they said that there was “no victim” or any “actual or intended loss.”
Attorneys for the actress, who co-starred on the ABC drama “Desperate Housewives” and who earned an Oscar nomination for “Transamerica,” have requested that the judge sentence her to a one-year term of probation and 250 hours of community service. She would also pay the $20,000 fine, they said.
She is one of 50 people charged in the sweeping college entrance cheating scheme, which revealed how well-heeled parents paid William “Rick” Singer to get their children into elite universities by boosting their test scores or passing them off as top athletes worthy of special admission. Actress Lori Loughlin and her fashion designer husband, Mossimo Giannulli, have also been charged.
Singer pleaded guilty to racketeering conspiracy, money laundering conspiracy, conspiracy to defraud the United States and obstruction of justice in March. He cooperated with federal investigators.
Huffman paid $15,000 to have wrong answers corrected on daughter Sofia Grace Macy’s SAT exam, leading to a remarkably improved score from the teen’s PSAT performance, prosecutors said.
Huffman said in a letter to Judge Indira Talwani earlier this month that “there is no justification for what I have done,” that “I could have said ‘no’ to cheating on the SAT scores.”
Huffman wrote that she was told by other mothers that she shouldn’t leave her daughter’s college process in the hands of overworked administrators at her high school for the performing arts, and that’s how she came to become involved with Singer.
Singer later told Huffman that her daughter’s math scores were still not measuring up, that he could “make sure she gets the scores she needs” by having someone bump up her scores after taking the test, Huffman said in the letter. The actress wrote she was “shocked that such a thing existed.”
Huffman ultimately agreed to the scheme, she said in the letter to the judge. “As warped as this sounds now, I honestly began to feel that maybe I would be a bad mother if I didn’t do what Mr. Singer was suggesting,” Huffman wrote in the letter.
“In my desperation to be a good mother I talked myself into believing that all I was doing was giving my daughter a fair shot,” Huffman wrote.
She also wrote that her daughter, who had no idea about the scheme, was upset when she found out about it and asked why she did not believe in her or that she could accomplish the scores on her own.
“I had no adequate answer for her. I could only say, ‘I am sorry. I was frightened and stupid,'” Huffman said in the letter.
Prosecutors said in their sentencing memorandum filed last week that Huffman defrauded the College Board, the non-profit organizations that develop and administer the SAT and the colleges to which her daughter applied, and that it deprived competing applicants of a fair shot at admission.
“Huffman’s conduct was deliberate and manifestly criminal: it was wrong, she knew it was wrong, and she actively participated in manipulating her daughter’s guidance counselor, the testing services and the schools to which her daughter applied,” prosecutors wrote.
Prosecutors also wrote: “Neither probation nor home confinement (in a large home in the Hollywood Hills with an infinity pool) would constitute meaningful punishment or deter others from committing similar crimes.”