Felicity Huffman Is Sentenced In College Admissions Bribery Scam

The actor had pleaded guilty after being accused of paying $15,000 to cheat on her daughter’s SAT test.

Actor Felicity Huffman was sentenced to 14 days in prison on Friday for her involvement in the notorious elite college admissions bribery scandal. 

“I am deeply ashamed of what I have done,” Huffman said in tears in court ahead of her sentencing by U.S. District Judge Indira Talwani. “I take full responsibility for my actions ... I am prepared to accept whatever sentence you deem fit.” 

As part of her sentence, Huffman will also have to pay a $30,000 fine, have supervised release for one year and do 250 hours of community service. She was ordered to self-report to prison on Oct. 25 to a facility still to be determined.

Huffman was the first parent to be sentenced in the college admissions scam, and had husband and actor William H. Macy with her in court. 

Prosecutors had previously recommended a one-month jail sentence for Huffman, plus a $20,000 fine and one year’s probation.

In May, the “Desperate Housewives” actor pleaded guilty to a single charge of conspiracy to commit mail fraud and honest services mail fraud, after being accused of paying $15,000 to cheat on her daughter’s SAT exam.    

Huffman was one of dozens of wealthy parents who were charged earlier this year in a nationwide college admissions scam, for allegedly paying bribes to get their kids into elite universities, including Yale; Stanford; the University of California, Los Angeles and more. 

“The outrage in this case is a system that is already so distorted by money and privilege in the first place,” the judge said in handing down Huffman’s sentence in court Friday. “In a system in that context, that you took the step of having one more advantage to put your child ahead.” 

As part of the bribery scheme, known as Operation Varsity Blues, wealthy parents allegedly paid to falsely boost their children’s exam scores or to have their children apply as student-athletes even if they had no skills in the relevant sport. “Full House” actor Lori Loughlin and her designer husband Mossimo Giannulli were also charged in the scam and both pleaded not guilty.

Huffman recently wrote in a letter to the judge that she was just trying to give her kid a “fair shot.” 

“In my desperation to be a good mother, I talked myself into believing that all I was doing was giving my daughter a fair shot,” she wrote. “I see the irony in that statement now because what I have done is the opposite of fair.”

In a memo filed last week, prosecutors wrote: “All parents want to help their kids get ahead, yet most manage to steer clear of conspiracy, bribery and fraud.” 

On Friday, the judge said: “Trying to be a good mother doesn’t excuse this.” 

Felicity Huffman departs federal court in Boston, where she pleaded guilty to charges in a nationwide college admissions brib
Felicity Huffman departs federal court in Boston, where she pleaded guilty to charges in a nationwide college admissions bribery scandal.

After news of the college admissions scandal broke, many pointed out that higher education admissions are already rigged to favor wealthy and white students ― even before reaching the point of criminality ― whether in the form of donations to schools or extra tutors, essay coaches and interview prep professionals who help the elite get their kids into Ivy League schools. Legacy status, in particular, tips the scales heavily in an applicant’s favor ― and disproportionately benefits white students. 

Earlier this year, California lawmakers proposed a series of bills that aimed to reform college admissions in the state. The first of the bills to reach the governor’s desk would require colleges to disclose whether they give preferential treatment to applicants related to donors or alumni (the bill is still awaiting Gov. Gavin Newsom’s (D) possible signature before it would become law). 

Before delivering Huffman’s sentence on Friday, the judge said she didn’t believe the elite college admissions scheme Huffman was part of had undermined the entire college admissions system more broadly. She noted that the system already “has cracks in it,” pointing to legacy preferences and other advantages often accrued to the wealthy.