Felicity Huffman sentenced to 14 days in prison for bribery

Huffman pleaded guilty in the high-profile case last May. She admitted spending $15,000 to have a paid-off proctor correct answers on her daughter’s SAT test two years ago.

By NANCY DILLON/NEW YORK DAILY NEWS (TNS)
September 14, 2019 15:15
Felicity Huffman sentenced to 14 days in prison for bribery

Actress Felicity Huffman and husband William H. Macy leave the federal courthouse in Boston. (photo credit: REUTERS)

She cheated, and then she scored.

“Desperate Housewives” star Felicity Huffman was sentenced to only 14 days in prison Friday for her role in what prosecutors have called the largest college admissions bribery scandal ever prosecuted.

The Emmy winner also go 250 hours of community service, a $30,000 fine and one year of probation. But the jail time was less than half the measly month prosecutors wanted after revising their requested jail time down from their original four month target.

Huffman, 56, pleaded guilty in the high-profile case last May. She admitted spending $15,000 to have a paid-off proctor correct answers on her daughter’s SAT test two years ago.

“This was a gift,” James Cohen, a law professor at Fordham University, told the Daily News Friday. “I think it’s a low sentence. It’s a defense win.”

After walking into the courthouse holding hands with her actor husband William H. Macy Friday afternoon, Huffman told the judge she took “full responsibility” for her crime.

She recalled driving her daughter Sophia to the test center in 2017 and knowing deep down it was wrong.

“I remember thinking, ‘Turn around, just turn around.’ To my eternal shame, I didn’t,” Huffman said, according to BuzzFeed.

“I can only say, I am so sorry Sophia,” Huffman continued. “I was frightened, I was stupid, and I was so wrong. I am deeply ashamed of what I’ve done.”

Huffman was the first parent sentenced among the 34 moneyed moms and dads charged in the sweeping scandal.

In a letter to the judge seeking leniency last week, Huffman said her “desperation to be a good mother” clouded her judgment.

Cohen said Huffman “did everything right” in responding to the criminal charge, “but the reality you can’t get around is that she exercised the power of her privilege, and that really shouldn’t be tolerated.”

“I don’t think anyone else is going to go below 14 days, unless there’s some sort of health issue,” he said, referring to others charged in the case. “Most of the parents were just greedy, and they took advantage of their wealth and status to get what they wanted.”

Huffman released a statement after the sentencing that said she accepted the judge’s decision “without reservation.”

“I broke the law. I have admitted that and I pleaded guilty to this crime. There are no excuses or justifications for my actions. Period," she said.

"I would like to apologize again to my daughter, my husband, my family and the educational community for my actions. And I especially want to apologize to the students who work hard every day to get into college, and to their parents who make tremendous sacrifices supporting their children,” she said.

“I have learned a lot over the last six months about my flaws as a person. My goal now is to serve the sentence that the court has given me. I look forward to doing my community service hours and making a positive impact on my community,” she said.

“I can promise you that in the months and years to come that I will try and live a more honest life, serve as a better role model for my daughters and family and continue to contribute my time and energies wherever I am needed," she said.

In her letter to the judge last week, Huffman said her oldest daughter was diagnosed with “sensory modulation issues” and “learning disabilities” as a child, so she became accustomed to paying professionals for extra help.

Huffman said she worked with scandal mastermind William “Rick” Singer “legitimately” for a year before she lost her bearings when he said her daughter’s low SAT math score would sink her chances at certain performing arts schools.

“I honestly didn’t and don’t care about my daughter going to a prestigious college. I just wanted to give her a shot at being considered for a program where her acting talent would be the deciding factor,” Huffman wrote in her letter.

“This sounds hollow now, but, in my mind, I knew that her success or failure in theater or film wouldn’t depend on her math skills. I didn’t want my daughter to be prevented from getting a shot at auditioning and doing what she loves because she can’t do math,” she wrote.

Huffman said she agonized for six weeks over Singer’s offer to have a shady proctor inflate her daughter’s test score.

“As warped as it 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,” she wrote.

“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. I see the irony in that statement now because what I have done is the opposite of fair,” she wrote.

Prosecutors previously pushed for Huffman to get four months in prison but later reduced that to one month behind bars along with supervised release and a $20,000 fine.

Huffman’s lawyers argued for a year of probation, 250 hours of community service and the same $20,000 fine.

The sentencing was viewed Friday as a bellwether for the other parents who also struck early deals and pleaded guilty. Nearly a dozen are scheduled to be sentenced over the next two months.

Among the 19 parents still fighting the charges are “Full House” actress Lori Loughlin and her fashion designer husband Mossimo Giannulli.

The wealthy couple is accused of staging photos and paying a whopping $500,000 to get their two daughters into the University of Southern California as purported rowing team recruits, even though the girls had no crew team experience.

They’ve each been charged with money laundering and conspiracy to commit mail and wire fraud and honest services mail and wire fraud. Both charges carry up to 20 years in federal prison and hefty fines.

The next proceeding in their case, an interim status conference, is scheduled for Oct. 2 in Boston.

Arguing Friday against Huffman’s plea to sidestep any jail time, prosecutors mentioned the Ohio mom sentenced in 2011 to 10 days in jail and three years probation for lying about her residency so her daughters could attend a better school.

Kelley Williams-Bolar admitted using her father’s address so her girls could attend the highly ranked school in neighboring Copley-Fairlawn School District.

“If we respect the rule of law, we should not treat defendants differently because of wealth or status,” a prosecutor at Huffman’s hearing said, according to BuzzFeed.


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