BOSTON (CBS/AP) — “Full House” actress Lori Loughlin and her fashion designer husband, Mossimo Giannulli are set to stand trial in the college admissions scandal in the fall, a judge said Thursday. This comes as defense lawyers argue that new evidence shows the couple is innocent of charges that they bribed their daughters’ way into the University of Southern California.
The trial for the first group of defendants, which includes Loughlin, Giannulli and six others, is scheduled for Oct. 5 in Boston federal court.
An attorney for the couple said in a legal filing that prosecutors provided the defense with notes written by the admitted ringleader of the college admissions cheating scheme that support the couple’s claim that they believed their payments were legitimate donations, not bribes.
“It’s exonerating information. This is not information any other judge has had,” said Defense Attorney William Trach.
Loughlin’s attorneys making allegations about “prosecutorial misconduct” they believe could exonerate her. Judge wants motions filed by 3/13 for a possible hearing in April. #wbz
— Beth Germano (@BethWBZ) February 27, 2020
“This belated discovery … is devastating to the government’s case and demonstrates that the government has been improperly withholding core exculpatory information, employing a ‘win at all costs’ effort rather than following their obligation to do justice,” attorney Sean Berkowtiz wrote.
The couple’s attorneys asked the judge to postpone the setting of the trial date in light of the new evidence, saying “it is the only fair way to protect the defendants’ rights.” Judge Nathaniel Gorton said a hearing on the motions could take place in April.
Loughlin and Giannulli are accused of paying $500,000 to get their daughters into USC as crew recruits even though neither was a rower. Authorities say the money was funneled through a sham charity operated by college admissions consultant Rick Singer, who has pleaded guilty to orchestrating the scheme.
Lawyers for Loughlin and Giannulli have argued that the couple believed the payments were “legitimate donations” that would go directly to USC as a fundraising gift or support Singer’s charity. They have accused prosecutors of hiding crucial evidence that could prove the couple’s innocence because it would undermine their case.
The new information provided to the defense includes notes written by Singer detailing his discussions with FBI investigators about recorded phone calls he had with parents, Berkowitz wrote. Singer said in his notes that the FBI told him to lie by saying that he told the parents who participated in the scheme that their payments were bribes, instead of legitimate donations to the schools, the attorney said.
“They continue to ask me to tell a fib and not restate what I told my clients as to where there money was going — to the program not the coach and that it was a donation and they want it to be a payment,” Singer wrote, according to the filing.
Prosecutor Eric Rosen responded to the defense’s disclosure. “Calling something a donation does not make it legitimate,” he said.
Berkowtiz called the information not only “exculpatory, but exonerating for the defendants the government has charged with bribery.”
The couple is among 15 prominent parents still fighting accusations that they rigged the college admissions system by paying people to pretend their kids were star athletes for sports they didn’t play or cheat on their children’s entrance exams.
Nearly two dozen parents have pleaded guilty, including “Desperate Housewives” star Felicity Huffman, who was sentenced to two weeks in prison for paying $15,000 to have a proctor correct her daughter’s SAT answers.
(© Copyright 2020 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)