14 set to plead guilty in ad­mis­sions scan­dal; Huffman, in apol­ogy, says: ‘I am ashamed’

The Buffalo News - - NATIONAL NEWS - By Kate Tay­lor

Felic­ity Huffman, the Hol­ly­wood ac­tress, on Mon­day laid out a list of fail­ings: Yes, she had paid a col­lege coun­selor $15,000 to ar­range for cheat­ing on her daugh­ter’s SAT test. And yes, it had back­fired mis­er­ably, turn­ing what Huffman said had been an ef­fort to help her daugh­ter into a be­trayal of her.

“I am ashamed,” Huffman said, announcing that she will plead guilty to a fed­eral crime, part of a sweep­ing investigation of col­lege ad­mis­sions fraud un­veiled last month by pros­e­cu­tors in Boston.

In the state­ment is­sued by Huffman, she said she wanted to apol­o­gize to her fam­ily, friends and col­leagues, and es­pe­cially, she said, “to the stu­dents who work hard every day to get into col­lege, and to their par­ents who make tremen­dous sac­ri­fices to sup­port their chil­dren and do so hon­estly.”

Huffman was one of 50 peo­ple charged in a sweep­ing investigation of col­lege ad­mis­sions fraud un­veiled last month by fed­eral pros­e­cu­tors. On Mon­day, pros­e­cu­tors said that 14 peo­ple – 13 par­ents and one coach – would plead guilty in the case. Dates for the for­mal pleas in court had yet to be set.

Huffman said that her daugh­ter had been un­aware of the cheat­ing – pros­e­cu­tors say a proc­tor cor­rected her test an­swers af­ter she had left. And Huffman ac­knowl­edged that, in an at­tempt to as­sist her daugh­ter, she had ul­ti­mately hurt and betrayed her.

“This trans­gres­sion to­ward her and the pub­lic I will carry for the rest of my life,” she said. “My de­sire to help my daugh­ter is no ex­cuse to break the law or en­gage in dis­hon­esty.”

The case pros­e­cu­tors have laid out cen­ters on a col­lege consultant, William Singer, whom Huffman and the other par­ents hired to guide them through the ap­pli­ca­tion process. Ac­cord­ing to pros­e­cu­tors, Singer spe­cial­ized in boost­ing stu­dents’ chances through fraud: He bribed test ad­min­is­tra­tors to al­low cheat­ing on col­lege en­trance ex­ams and bribed col­lege coaches to des­ig­nate his clients’ chil­dren as re­cruits to teams for which they were not ac­tu­ally qual­i­fied. Singer co­op­er­ated with pros­e­cu­tors and has pleaded guilty to rack­e­teer­ing and other charges.

A to­tal of 33 par­ents were charged in the case. Some have made clear they will fight the charges, while oth­ers may still be de­bat­ing what to do. Huffman is the high­est-pro­file par­ent to ad­mit wrong­do­ing in the case so far.

Ac­tress Lori Lough­lin and her hus­band, fash­ion de­signer Mos­simo Giannulli, were also charged and were not among those who pros­e­cu­tors said Mon­day would plead guilty. The gov­ern­ment has said that the cou­ple con­spired with Singer to pay $500,000 in bribes to get their daugh­ters ad­mit­ted to the Univer­sity of South­ern Cal­i­for­nia as re­cruits to the women’s crew team, even though nei­ther ac­tu­ally rowed crew. Lough­lin has lost some pro­fes­sional op­por­tu­ni­ties as a re­sult of the charges – most no­tably, the Hall­mark Chan­nel said that it would stop devel­op­ment of shows that fea­ture her.

It is not clear what ef­fect Huffman’s ac­knowl­edg­ment of guilt will have on her ca­reer. She has roles in sev­eral com­ing movies and tele­vi­sion se­ries, in­clud­ing play­ing prosecutor Linda Fairstein in the minis­eries “When They See Us” about the so-called Cen­tral Park Five, five black and His­panic teenagers who were wrong­fully con­victed of beat­ing and rap­ing a fe­male jog­ger in Cen­tral Park in 1989.

Pros­e­cu­tors said that Huffman and most of the other par­ents would plead guilty to a sin­gle count of con­spir­acy to com­mit mail fraud and hon­est ser­vices mail fraud. The charge car­ries a max­i­mum sen­tence of 20 years in prison, but it is un­clear how much time, if any, the par­ents will re­ceive.

Their sen­tences may be af­fected in part by how much money each is al­leged to have paid to Singer and oth­ers as part of the scheme. Huffman’s pay­ment of $15,000 was among the small­est, ac­cord­ing to court doc­u­ments. Huffman’s and the 12 other par­ents’ sen­tences are also likely to be lighter as a re­sult of their plead­ing guilty and not mak­ing the gov­ern­ment go to trial.

In ad­di­tion to the par­ents, pros­e­cu­tors said Mon­day that one of sev­eral coaches charged in the case, Michael Cen­ter, for­mer head coach of men’s ten­nis at the Univer­sity of Texas at Austin, would also plead guilty to the same crime. Pros­e­cu­tors said that Singer paid Cen­ter $60,000 in cash and di­rected $40,000 to the Univer­sity of Texas ten­nis pro­gram in ex­change for Cen­ter des­ig­nat­ing the son of one of Singer’s clients as a re­cruit for the ten­nis team, even though he was not a com­pet­i­tive ten­nis player. Bruce and Dav­ina Isack­son of Hills­bor­ough, Calif., who were ac­cused of pay­ing Singer $600,000, to bribe of­fi­cials, have also agreed to co­op­er­ate, pros­e­cu­tors said.

Ac­cord­ing to the crim­i­nal com­plaint against Huffman, her hus­band, William H. Macy, was also in­volved in the $15,000 pay­ment. For reasons that are un­clear, Macy was not charged.

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