Defense attorneys for some parents fighting charges in the massive college admissions bribery scandal told a federal judge on Monday that their clients’ payments were not bribes, but charitable donations to the colleges.
During a status hearing in Boston, several attorneys offered what could be a defense strategy for the nearly 20 parents who have pleaded not guilty, including “Full House” actress Lori Loughlin and fashion designer Mossimo Giannulli.
“If the money went to a school, it’s not a bribe,” said attorney Martin Weinberg, representing businessman David Sidoo, among the dozens of wealthy parents indicted in an alleged scheme to bribe their children’s way into elite colleges, including Yale, Georgetown and the University of Southern California. “Many of the clients would contend that if payments were made to a charity or sports organization, that it is not a bribe,” he added, according to NBC News.
Aaron Katz, an attorney for parent Elizabeth Henriquez, told Judge M. Page Kelley that the scheme’s mastermind, Rick Singer, gave parents the impression that “their money was going to go to athletic programs or schools ― not to bribes,” according to Bloomberg.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Eric Rosen rejected the defense claims.
“It doesn’t matter if the money went to the coach’s program or the coach directly,” Rosen said during the hearing, according to The Washington Post. “A bribe is simply a quid pro quo.”
According to the indictment, Singer set up a fake charity to funnel the parents’ payments, which involved thousands of dollars to falsify their children’s standardized test results or create fake profiles that falsely portrayed the students as top athletic recruits.
More than a dozen other parents in the case, including “Desperate Housewives” actress Felicity Huffman, have pleaded guilty and will be sentenced later this year.
Several other figures, including Singer and his associates, as well as coaches and school officials who are accused of accepting the bribes, have also pleaded guilty.
On Monday, Ali Khosroshahin, a former USC women’s soccer coach, became the latest figure in the scheme to plead guilty and agree to cooperate with prosecutors.