Judge puts off Lough­lin de­ci­sion

She and hus­band ad­mit guilt in col­lege ad­mis­sions scan­dal, but fate still un­set­tled.

Los Angeles Times - - CITY & STATE - By Joel Ru­bin

Ac­tress Lori Lough­lin and her hus­band pleaded guilty Fri­day to charges of fraud in the col­lege ad­mis­sions scan­dal, ad­mit­ting they scammed their daugh­ters’ way into USC with lies and il­le­gal pay­ments.

But the case against Lough­lin and her hus­band J. Mos­simo Gian­nulli re­mained un­set­tled af­ter the judge in the case put off a de­ci­sion on whether to ac­cept the cou­ple’s guilty pleas and the terms of deals they struck with pros­e­cu­tors.

Un­der those deals, Lough­lin would spend two months in prison and Gian­nulli would be sen­tenced to five months be­hind bars.

None­the­less, the court hear­ing Fri­day, which was held re­motely over a video con­fer­ence, marked a sharp about-face for the cou­ple. Since their ar­rests more than a year ago, Lough­lin and Gian­nulli had main­tained their in­no­cence, re­peat­edly plead­ing not guilty as pros­e­cu­tors ratch­eted up pres­sure on them with en­hanced charges, in­clud­ing conspiracy to com­mit fraud, bribery and money laun­der­ing.

Be­fore they said a somber “guilty” un­der oath Fri­day, the tele­vi­sion star and fash­ion de­signer ac­knowl­edged what they had long de­nied: that they schemed with Wil­liam “Rick” Singer, a New­port Beach con­sul­tant at the heart of the scan­dal, to pass off their two daugh­ters, Olivia Jade Gian­nulli and Is­abella Rose Gian­nulli, as row­ing re­cruits — a scam that cleared the way for the girls’ ad­mis­sion to the elite univer­sity.

Seated next to their at­tor­neys, Lough­lin and Gian­nulli lis­tened with stony ex­pres­sions as as­sis­tant U.S.

Atty. Eric Rosen read an ex­haus­tive ac­count of their deal­ings with Singer, in­clud­ing how they paid him a to­tal of $500,000, took staged pho­tographs of the girls on row­ing equip­ment to bol­ster the cha­rade of their ath­letic prow­ess, and lied to ad­min­is­tra­tors at USC and the girls’ tony pri­vate high school who had grown sus­pi­cious.

Af­ter­ward, un­der ques­tion­ing from U.S. District Court Judge Nathaniel M. Gor­ton, Lough­lin, 55, and Gian­nulli, 56, ac­knowl­edged the al­le­ga­tions laid out by the pros­e­cu­tor were true.

From his cham­bers in a Bos­ton court­house, Gor­ton said he would wait to de­cide whether to ac­cept the guilty pleas un­til he re­ceived de­tailed re­ports on the case and the cou­ple from pro­ba­tion of­fi­cials. If he ul­ti­mately de­cides that the prison sen­tences, com­mu­nity ser­vice and six-fig­ure fines called for in the plea agree­ments are too le­nient, Gor­ton said he would give the pair the chance to with­draw their guilty pleas or stick with them and ac­cept the judge’s more se­vere pun­ish­ments.

Sen­tenc­ing is set for Aug. 21. It was not clear if the judge would de­cide on whether to sign off on the plea deals be­fore then.

There are rea­sons to think he could have con­cerns with the pro­posed pun­ish­ments. Gor­ton has al­ready sen­tenced four other par­ents in the widerang­ing scan­dal and the short­est sen­tence has been five months for a mother who paid Singer far less money than Lough­lin and Gian­nulli.

Gor­ton also or­dered Dou­glas Hodge, a for­mer in­vest­ment man­ager ex­ec­u­tive, to serve nine months in prison, the stiffest sen­tence handed down in the scan­dal so far.

The de­ci­sion by Lough­lin and Gian­nulli to plead guilty came af­ter the cou­ple lost an am­bi­tious le­gal coun­ter­at­tack ear­lier this year. They and other par­ents charged in the case ar­gued that Gor­ton should dis­miss the case or at least toss out in­crim­i­nat­ing recorded phone calls af­ter notes taken by Singer came to light in which he ap­peared to claim fed­eral agents pres­sured him to lie and elicit in­crim­i­nat­ing yet false ev­i­dence against his clients. Gor­ton opted to do nei­ther.

Singer, who has pleaded guilty to mul­ti­ple felonies, has been co­op­er­at­ing with in­ves­ti­ga­tors since they con­fronted him in 2018 af­ter get­ting a tip about his deal­ings. In all, pros­e­cu­tors in the U.S. At­tor­ney’s Of­fice for Mas­sachusetts have charged more than 50 par­ents, coaches, col­lege ad­min­is­tra­tors and oth­ers who al­legedly par­tic­i­pated in Singer’s scheme that tar­geted wealthy, un­scrupu­lous fam­i­lies des­per­ate to see their chil­dren get into USC, Yale, Stan­ford and other elite uni­ver­si­ties where Singer had made in­roads.

Though he ran a le­git­i­mate col­lege ad­mis­sion con­sult­ing busi­ness, Singer of­fered a menu of il­licit ser­vices to par­ents will­ing to over­step eth­i­cal and le­gal lines. For a fee that ran from about $15,000 to $75,000, Singer ar­ranged to have an ac­com­plice take a teen’s col­lege en­trance exam or cor­rect their er­rors. For about $250,000, par­ents could ac­cess what Singer called the “side door” he had built into schools, in which he es­sen­tially paid off coaches and ath­letic ad­min­is­tra­tors for ad­mis­sion spots re­served for ath­letic re­cruits.

Many of the ac­cused have pleaded guilty, while about 20 who have per­sisted in their in­no­cence are slated to go to trial in pro­ceed­ings sched­uled to start later this year and early next year.

On Fri­day, pros­e­cu­tors an­nounced that yet an­other par­ent had been charged in the case and has agreed to plead guilty. Un­der the terms of a plea deal, Peter Dameris, 60, of Pa­cific Pal­isades will plead guilty to us­ing $300,000 in bribery pay­ments to sneak his son into Ge­orge­town Univer­sity as a bo­gus ten­nis player.

While all the par­ents in the case came from rar­efied, priv­i­leged cir­cles of one sort or an­other, the sheen of fame and glam­our on Lough­lin and Gian­nulli led to out­size fas­ci­na­tion — and ire — from the pub­lic.

In April 2019, Lough­lin’s fans and de­trac­tors lined the side­walk out­side the fed­eral court­house in Bos­ton where she made her ini­tial ap­pear­ance. Since then, su­per­mar­ket tabloids, cit­ing un­named sources said to be close to the ac­tress, of­fered near-weekly up­dates on her state of mind, her re­la­tion­ship with her daugh­ters and other sala­cious, un­founded ru­mors.

Steven Senne As­so­ci­ated Press

AC­TRESS Lori Lough­lin, right, and her hus­band, cloth­ing de­signer Mos­simo Gian­nulli, leave a fed­eral court­house in Bos­ton af­ter a hear­ing in April.

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