Lori Loughlin returns to court for college admissions scandal case

Lori Loughlin was back in court Tuesday for a hearing related to the college admissions scandal. She and her husband, Mossimo Giannulli, appeared united, entering the courthouse hand-in-hand. Wearing a gray cardigan over a dress, Loughlin and Giannulli, in a navy suit, attempted to avoid the media by slipping through a back door.

Loughlin and Giannulli, who are both charged with mail fraud and money laundering conspiracy, appeared in U.S. District Court in Boston for a Rule 44 hearing, which was basically to waive their right to separate attorneys and acknowledge that they understand there could be conflicts of interest. Using the same counsel goes along with their plan of a "united front" in their defense — though it could make it harder to win an appeal. The couple’s chosen law firm also recently represented the University of Southern California in an unrelated matter, which is an alleged victim in the case.

Actress Lori Loughlin and her husband, fashion designer Mossimo Giannulli, arrive at the federal courthouse for a hearing on charges in a nationwide college admissions cheating scheme in Boston, Massachusetts, U.S., August 27, 2019.  REUTERS/Josh Reynolds
Actress Lori Loughlin and her husband, fashion designer Mossimo Giannulli, arrive at the federal courthouse for a hearing on charges in a nationwide college admissions cheating scheme in Boston, Mass. on August 27, 2019. (Photo: REUTERS/Josh Reynolds)

According to Boston station WCVB, the judge told Loughlin and Giannulli sharing the same lawyers constitutes a "potential" and "actual conflict of interest." The judge cautioned them that the only way to know you’re getting the best legal advice is if your attorneys have a duty of loyalty "to you and you alone." Despite the warning, the couple moved forward with a shared legal team, telling the judge they understand the risks of their "dual legal representation."

The 55-year-old actress and her designer husband, 56, are accused of paying $500,000 in bribes to admissions consultant William “Rick” Singer to get their daughters — Olivia Jade and Isabella Giannulli — admitted as crew recruits at the University of Southern California, despite the socialites never participating in the sport. According to the Massachusetts U.S. Attorney’s charging documents, it went as far as staging photos on rowing equipment and setting up a fake crew profile.

The scandal has been widespread among the elite — and Loughlin’s peer, actress Felicity Huffman, was among the about 50 parents, coaches, exam proctors and admissions counselors involved. However, the Desperate Housewives star, whose bribe was much less at $15,000, made a deal with prosecutors and pleaded guilty to one charge of conspiracy to commit mail fraud and honest services fraud. When she is sentenced on Sept. 13, it’s expected she’ll get six months or less in prison.

Loughlin has gone a different route amid this Operation Varsity Blues scandal. After opting not to make a deal with prosecutors, the Fuller House star and her husband were each slapped with an additional charge — and pleaded not guilty to both. If convicted, each charge carries a maximum sentence of 20 years. So that’s 40 years a piece.

While it seems like they took a large gamble, People magazine reports in its latest issue that Loughlin didn’t think she was doing anything wrong.

“Lori is remorseful, and she has definite regrets,” said a source close the actress, who has a large fanbase for years playing Aunt Becky on Full House and the reboot. “She’s embarrassed and hurt, and she knows that her reputation has been ruined for life. But she also believes the allegations against her aren’t true.”

However, “She honestly didn’t think what she was doing was any different than donating money for a library or athletic field. That’s the crux of why she pleaded not guilty.”

The source also noted that Loughlin is in “constant communication” with her legal team, Latham & Watkins, and is keeping “meticulous records” on everything, including the other defendants and the plea deals they made. “She wants to know who is getting what punishment and how their cases differ from hers.”

That contradicts speculation made after her earlier court appearances — in Los Angeles and another Boston — that Loughlin wasn’t taking the situation seriously enough.

Additional reporting by Taryn Ryder.

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