Felicity Huffman says she was only thinking about her two daughters when she agreed to take part in a college admissions scheme.
In a letter addressed to a judge and obtained by PEOPLE, Huffman, 56, describes her “desperation to be a good mother” as one reason for why she participated in a plan fix her daughter’s SAT exams and facilitate her entries into good schools.
“Please, let me be very clear, I know there is no justification for what I have done. Yes, there is a bigger picture, but ultimately it doesn’t matter because I could have said “No” to cheating on the SAT scores,” Huffman wrote. “I unequivocally take complete responsibility for my actions and will respectfully accept whatever punishment the court deems appropriate.”
Huffman continued, “I keep asking myself, why did I do this? Why did I say yes to a scheme of breaking the law and compromising my integrity? What interior forces drove me to do it? How could I abandon my own moral compass and common sense?”
The former Desperate Housewives actress — who has daughters Sophia, 19, and Georgia, 17, with husband William H. Macy — explained she’d sought advice from experts and doctors for her oldest daughter when she was “diagnosed with learning disabilities.”
The slew of recommendations and expert advice became “a big part of my parenting and, regrettably, I came to rely on them too much,” Huffman wrote. “They came to outweigh my maternal instincts and eventually, in point of fact, my moral compass.”
The actress described meeting Rick Singer at a recommendation in order to help Sophia in the college admissions process.
“I worked with Mr. Singer legitimately for a year. I also engaged him for my second daughter, Georgia, who also has serious learning disabilities, so she could benefit from his expertise,” Huffman wrote. “I was relieved that he seemed so good at his job, was so confident and knowledgeable. Sophia was passionate about majoring in theater, but over time, Mr. Singer told me that her test scores were too low, and if her math SAT scores didn’t rise dramatically, none of the colleges she was interested in would even consider her auditions.”
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Huffman continued, “I honestly didn’t and don’t care about my daughter going to a prestigious college. I just wanted to give her a shot at being considered for a program where her acting talent would be the deciding factor. This sounds hollow now, but, in my mind, I knew that her success or failure in theater or film wouldn’t depend on her math skills. I didn’t want my daughter to be prevented from getting a shot at auditioning and doing what she loves because she can’t do math.”
The actress wrote that when Singer suggested he could have a proctor “bump up her scores” on the SAT, she was “shocked” but came to believe she “would be a bad mother if I didn’t do what Mr. Singer was suggesting.”
“To my utter shame, I finally agreed to cheating on Sophia’s SAT scores, and also considered doing the same thing for Georgia,” Huffman wrote. “But the decision haunted me terribly; I knew it was not right. I finally came to my senses and told Mr. Singer to stop the process for Georgia.”
“From the moment my children were born I was worried that they got me as a Mother. I so desperately wanted to do right and was so deathly afraid of doing it wrong,” she continued. “My own fears and lack of confidence, combined with a daughter who has learning disabilities often made me insecure and feel highly anxious from the beginning.”
She added, “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. I see the irony in that statement now because what I have done is the opposite of fair. I have broken the law, deceived the educational community, betrayed my daughter, and failed my family.”
Her actions also caused a strain on her relationship with Sophia.
“When my daughter looked at me and asked with tears streaming down her face, “Why didn’t you believe in me? Why didn’t you think I could do it on my own?” I had no adequate answer for her,” Huffman wrote. “I could only say, “I am sorry. I was frightened and I was stupid.” In my blind panic, I have done the exact thing that I was desperate to avoid. I have compromised my daughter’s future, the wholeness of my family and my own integrity.”
Huffman, who pleaded guilty on May 13 for her role in the college admissions scandal, admitted she felt a “deep and abiding shame over what I have done.”
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“Shame and regret that I will carry for the rest of my life. It is right that I should carry this burden and use it as fuel for change in my own life and hopefully, it will be a cautionary tale for my daughters and the community,” she added.
In a recommendation to the judge, prosecutors called for the actress to face one month in prison, followed by 12 months of supervised release as well as a $20,000 fine, PEOPLE confirmed.
Through her attorney, Huffman asked the judge for one year of probation and community service. The actress also had 27 people write letters of support on her behalf to the judge, including her husband and actress Eva Longoria.
Huffman’s husband Macy was not charged in the scandal. The two married in 1997 and share Sofia and Georgia. A source told PEOPLE in April that Huffman and Macy have remained united during the difficult time.
Huffman will be sentenced on Sept. 13.