Felicity Huffman sentenced to 14 days in prison in college admissions scandal

Felicity Huffman has been sentenced for her part in the college admissions scandal.

The Desperate Housewives actress, 56, was given 14 days in prison, one year of supervised release, 250 hours of community service and a fine of $30,000 by Judge Indira Talwani in Boston federal court on Friday. She must self-report to prison by Oct. 25.

Actress Felicity Huffman arrives at the federal courthouse with her husband William H. Macy, before being sentenced in connection with a nationwide college admissions cheating scheme in Boston, Massachusetts, U.S., September 13, 2019.  REUTERS/Katherine Taylor
Felicity Huffman arrives for sentencing in Boston federal court on Sept. 13. She was accompanied by her husband, William H. Macy. (Photo: REUTERS/Katherine Taylor)

Huffman issued a personal statement, obtained by Yahoo Entertainment, immediately after the verdict saying she accepts the court’s decision “without reservation.”

The federal sentencing guidelines for conspiracy to commit mail fraud and honest services fraud called for between zero and six months in prison, a legal expert told Yahoo Entertainment after Huffman pleaded guilty. Federal prosecutors recommended the low end — one month with a year of supervised release and a $20,000 fine. Meanwhile, Huffman’s legal team asked the judge to sentence her to one year of probation, a $20,000 fine and community service. So this sentence is on the low end of the guideline.

Huffman — the first parent to be sentenced in the widespread college admissions scandal — was accompanied to court by her husband, William H. Macy, as well as a handful of others, including her brother, Moore Huffman Jr.

Macy sat in the front row for the proceedings. Prosecutors made the case for Huffman to spend the one month in prison, saying she exhibited “deliberate and intentional criminal conduct.” They asked that “a message must be sent” and said “imprisonment is the only way to send that message.”

Huffman’s team then made the case for probation and community service. They argued that what she did wasn’t as extreme as some of the other parents. They said she’s already paid a price for this, and say said she shouldn’t receive a harsher sentence than others because she has fame and money.

Huffman, through tears, also spoke in court and apologized for what she did, saying she has “eternal shame” over it. She also apologized to her daughter. The actress told the judge she takes “full responsibility” and was “prepared to accept whatever sentence you deem fit.”

During Judge Talwani’s ruling, she said Huffman didn’t seek out the scheme — she had been working with college admissions consultant William “Rick” Singer legitimately for a year when Singer suggested the scam. However, she said Huffman still broke the law and added, “Trying to be a good mother does not excuse this.” She ended up giving Huffman a 14-day sentence.

Huffman’s attorneys asked for the sentence to be carried out in California, near her family home and in a low-security prison, and that she be able to self-report to prison.

After the verdict, the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Massachusetts said she can self-report and must do so by Oct. 25. However, the facility has not yet been determined.

Huffman was arrested in March for the so-called Operation Varsity Blues scam, which saw the elite pay college admissions consultant Singer to get their children into esteemed universities. Huffman, who pleaded guilty in May, admitted to paying Singer $15,000 to have a proctor cheat on her elder daughter Sophia Macy's SAT exam. The 19-year-old was unaware of the scam, prosecutors said.

After making her plea deal with prosecutors, Huffman apologized in a statement for breaking the law and said she had “deep regret and shame” over it.

Huffman submitted 27 letters of support to the judge ahead of the sentencing. One was from her husband, who was also referenced in the criminal complaint, which seemingly suggested he had knowledge of the scheme though he was not charged. He wrote that Huffman’s mother was “sometimes violent" with her when she was a child, which made her strive to be a supermom. Though he said that all “exploded” — as did her relationship with their daughters (also including Georgia, 17) — when FBI agents showed up at their home with guns drawn to take Huffman to jail in March.

“Rebuilding that relationship,” between mother and children, “will be a long process,” the Shameless actor wrote. However, “every day is slightly better.”

Additional letters came from Huffman’s Desperate Housewives co-star Eva Longoria and showrunner Marc Cherry, both of which exposed turmoil on the set of the ABC show.

In Huffman’s own letter to Judge Talwani, she revealed her motivation was "desperation to be a good mom.” She said she had believed she was just “giving my daughter a fair shot” — because she had learning struggles. However, she acknowledged that she abandoned “my own moral compass and common sense” when she said “yes to a scheme of breaking the law.”

The letters also revealed that Sophia, an aspiring actress, is taking a gap year after graduating high school in June. After her mother’s arrest, the teen — who Macy said has “paid the dearest price” in all of this — had an invitation to audition at a college withdrawn. It was also pointed out that the school “ironically” doesn’t even require SAT scores for admission anyway.

76th Golden Globe Awards - Arrivals - Beverly Hills, California, U.S., January 6, 2019 - William H. Macy and Felicity Huffman. REUTERS/Mike Blake
William H. Macy and Felicity Huffman at the Golden Globes in January, just months before her arrest. (Photo: REUTERS/Mike Blake)

Huffman also recalled Sophia confronting her about the scheme after her arrest. “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?’” She said she “could only say, ‘I am sorry. I was frightened and I was stupid.’”

It was also revealed that Huffman has not received any job offers or auditions since her arrest. Some projects that she had previously completed (When They See Us, Otherhood) were released, however.

Huffman’s legal path in this scandal has differed greatly from her peer Lori Loughlin, who was also charged. Loughlin and her husband, Mossimo Giannulli, are accused of paying $500,000 to get their daughters into the University of Southern California as crew recruits — despite neither of the socialites participating in the sport. They didn’t make a deal with prosecutors, were slapped with an additional charge and are going to trial. Their next court date is Oct. 2, though they are not required to attend.

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