BOSTON (CBS) — Actress Lori Loughlin and her fashion designer husband Mossimo Giannulli have agreed to plead guilty to conspiracy charges in the college admissions scandal, the U.S. attorney for Massachusetts announced Thursday. Both plea deals, if approved by a judge, have the couple spending time in prison.
— U.S. Attorney MA (@DMAnews1) May 21, 2020
It’s a legal bombshell after the couple was defiant for 16 months, insisting on taking the case to trial. The “Full House” star will plead guilty to a single count of conspiracy to commit wire and mail fraud while Giannulli will plead guilty to one count of conspiracy to commit wire and mail fraud and honest services wire and mail fraud.
Under a plea agreement, Loughlin will serve two months in prison, pay a $150,000 fine and have two years of supervised release with 100 hours of community service.
“Defendant expressly and unequivocally admits that she committed that crime, did so knowingly and intentionally, and is in fact guilty of that offense,” her agreement reads.
Giannulli’s plea agreement has him serving five months in prison, paying a $250,000 fine and having two years of supervised release with 250 hours of community service.
The couple could have faced 20 years in prison under the conspiracy charges.
“These two defendants were looking at possible double digits behind the wall, but at least five if convicted of bribery and money laundering, and that reality set in,” WBZ-TV legal analyst Harry Manion said. “I thought the only path for the defendants here was to say the whole thing was overblown and represented an overreach by the government. We are parents who did wrong to try to help their kids.”
Attorney Phil Tracy said they would’ve had trouble finding a sympathetic jury.
“There never would be any sympathy on a jury for people like this to go to trial,” he said. “Because every parent and child over the years you sweat out over whether you can get into a certain college – and they cheated.”
Both plea deals must be approved by a judge. The couple is accused of paying consultant Rick Singer $500,000 to get their daughters into the University of Southern California as rowing recruits.
“Two months in jail for Lori Loughlin is a little different from a hardened criminal getting a couple of years,” Tracy said.
They would be the 23rd and 24th parents to plead guilty in the case. Actress Felicity Huffman struck a plea deal last year, saying she was “deeply ashamed” of her actions and served 11 days in prison.
The couple is scheduled to plead guilty on Friday at 11:30 a.m. before a federal judge in Boston via video conference.
“Under the plea agreements filed today, these defendants will serve prison terms reflecting their respective roles in a conspiracy to corrupt the college admissions process and which are consistent with prior sentences in this case. We will continue to pursue accountability for undermining the integrity of college admissions,” U.S. Attorney Andrew Lelling said in a statement.
“When you get a plea of guilty, it’s a slam dunk. Trials are never a slam dunk,” said legal analyst Jennifer Roman. However, she said it’s possible for Loughlin to recover from the scandal.
“Something we’ve seen time and time again is that the public is very forgiving of someone they have a soft spot for. We saw this with Martha Stewart, who made an amazing comeback after a very lengthy time in prison,” Roman said.