California resident Felicity Huffman was sentenced to 14 days in prison on Sept. 13 for the role she played in the largest college admissions scandal in the nation’s history. Huffman admitted in May that she paid a college counselor $15,000 to improve her daughter’s SAT score. The payment was allegedly concealed as a charitable contribution. The Oscar-nominated star of ‘Desperate Housewives” will also serve one year of supervised release, pay a $30,000 fine and perform 250 hours of community service. Huffman will begin serving her sentence on Oct. 25.
U.S. attorneys had asked the judge who sentenced Huffman to send the actress to prison for a month followed by a year of supervised release. Her attorneys wanted no jail time, 250 hours of community service and one year of probation. Huffman is the first parent involved in the scandal to be sentenced. Federal prosecutors have charged 51 people with crimes ranging from money laundering to tax evasion.
The investigation focused on a college counselor who was allegedly paid up to $6.5 million by parents to change SAT scores and fake athletic credentials. The man has pleaded guilty to obstruction of justice, money laundering, racketeering, and tax evasion, and he faces up to 65 years in a federal prison when he is sentenced. He is said to be cooperating with investigators and has even worn a wire to implicate some of the parents involved.
Criminal defense attorneys may encourage their clients to plead guilty in return for sentencing considerations in cases like this one when the evidence against them is strong and their chances of prevailing in court are slim. This is because the penalties for committing federal crimes are usually severe and U.S. attorneys generally do not pursue indictments in cases involving white-collar crimes until they have compelling evidence.