DESPERATE Housewives star Felicity Huffman broke down in tears today as she was jailed for 14 days for her part in the college bribery scandal.
Huffman admitted to paying $15,000 (£12,000) to rig her daughter’s SAT scores, tearfully apologising to the teen for not trusting her to get into college on her own.
Felicity Huffman broke down in tears today as she was jailed for 14 days for her part in the college bribery scandal[/caption]
“I was frightened, I was stupid, and I was so wrong,” Huffman, 56, said as she was sentenced at a court in Boston, US.
The actress became the first parent sentenced in a college admissions scandal that ensnared dozens of wealthy and well-connected mum and dads.
The scandal exposed the lengths to which parents will go to get their children into the “right” schools and reinforced suspicions that the college admissions process is slanted toward the rich.
In sentencing Huffman, U.S. District Judge Indira Talwani noted the outrage the case has generated, adding that it “isn’t because people discovered that it isn’t a true meritocracy out there.”
The outrage, she said, was because Huffman took steps “to get one more advantage” in a system “already so distorted by money and privilege.”
Dozens took to social media to slam the 14-day jail term, with many saying it was far too small a penalty for her role in the massive college admissions scandal.
Prosecutors had sought a month in prison for Huffman, while her lawyers said she should get probation.
Huffman paid $15,000 to boost her older daughter’s SAT scores with the help of William “Rick” Singer, an admission consultant at the centre of the scheme.
She pleaded guilty in May to a single count of conspiracy and fraud as part of a deal with prosecutors.
Singer, who has pleaded guilty, allegedly bribed a test proctor to correct the teenager’s answers.
The amount Huffman paid is relatively low compared with other bribes alleged in the scheme.
Some parents are accused of paying up to $500,000 (£400,000).
Huffman must report for her prison sentence in six weeks. She also must pay a $30,000 fine and perform 250 hours of community service.
“I would like to apologise again to my daughter, my husband, my family and the educational community for my actions,” Huffman said in a statement.
“And I especially want to apologise to the students who work hard every day to get into college, and to their parents who make tremendous sacrifices supporting their children.”
In arguing for incarceration, Assistant U.S. Attorney Eric Rosen told the judge that prosecutors had no reason to doubt the rationale Huffman offered her fears and insecurities as a parent for taking part in the scheme.
“But with all due respect to the defendant, welcome to parenthood,” Rosen said.
“Parenthood is terrifying, exhausting and stressful, but that’s what every parent goes through.
“What parenthood does not do, it does not make you a felon, it does not make you cheat, in fact it makes you want to serve as a positive role model for your children.”
Huffman’s lawyer Martin Murphy argued that her crimes were less serious than those of her co-defendants and noted that she did not enlist her daughter in the scheme.
The actress has said her daughter, Sophia, was unaware of the arrangement.
Authorities said Sophia got a bump of 400 points from her earlier score on the PSAT, a practice version of the SAT.
Prosecutors have not said which colleges her daughter applied to with the fraudulent SAT score.
Huffman’s husband, actor William H. Macy, was not charged.
In a letter this month asking for leniency, Huffman said she turned to the scheme after her daughter’s dreams of going to college and pursuing an acting career were jeopardised by her low math score.
“I honestly didn’t and don’t care about my daughter going to a prestigious college,” Huffman wrote.
“I just wanted to give her a shot at being considered for a program where her acting talent would be the deciding factor.”
Prosecutors countered that Huffman was driven by “a sense of entitlement, or at least moral cluelessness, facilitated by wealth and insularity.”
The case is seen as an indicator of what’s in store for other defendants.
A total of 51 people have been charged in the scheme, the biggest college admissions case ever prosecuted by the Justice Department.
Prosecutors said parents schemed to manipulate test scores and bribed coaches to get their children into elite schools by having them labelled as recruited athletes for sports they didn’t even play.
Over the next two months, nearly a dozen other parents are scheduled to be sentenced.
Some 15 parents have pleaded guilty, while 19 are fighting the charges.
Among those contesting the charges are “Full House” actress Lori Loughlin and her fashion designer husband, Mossimo Giannulli.
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They are accused of paying to get their two daughters into the University of Southern California as fake athletes.
Former Stanford University sailing coach John Vandemoer is the only other person sentenced so far and received a day in prison.
He admitted helping students get into Stanford as recruited athletes in exchange for $270,000 for his sailing program.
Huffman, centre right, with husband William H Macy, left, and daughters Georgia Macy, centre left, and Sophia Macy, right, whose exam results were rigged[/caption]
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