How long will Felicity Huffman and Lori Loughlin spend in prison? A legal expert breaks it down

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Suzy Byrne
·Editor, Yahoo Entertainment
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Lori Loughlin and Felicity Huffman have handled their federal indictments very differently — and it looks like their punishments will be very different too. (Photo: Getty Images)
Lori Loughlin and Felicity Huffman have handled their federal indictments very differently — and it looks like their punishments will be very different too. (Photo: Getty Images)

What a difference a day — and a plea deal — makes for Felicity Huffman and Lori Loughlin.

One day after it was announced that the Desperate Housewives alum would plead guilty to fraud in the college admissions scandal, Loughlin — who didn’t — was slapped with a second charge of money laundering. According to the Massachusetts U.S. Attorney, each charge carries a maximum sentence of 20 years.

OK, so they face 40 years a piece, but how much time will each woman likely be sentenced to? We consulted attorney Debra Bogaards of Bogaards Law in San Francisco to help make sense of it all. Dealmaker Huffman, who paid William “Rick” Singer $15,000 to booster her daughter Sophia Macy’s SAT scores, is in the much better spot — while she faces potential jail time under the plea deal, it’s likely not a lot. The federal sentencing guidelines for conspiracy to commit mail fraud and honest services fraud is “between zero and six months in prison as the most likely scenario,” Bogaards explains. And because Huffman made the plea deal, which was announced Monday, she avoided the additional charge today. However, prosecutors reportedly were only accepting plea deals with prison time attached. So she will likely do at least some time.

On the other hand, Fuller House actress Loughlin also has the fraud charge but on top of it now has the second charge of “conspiring to launder” the $500,000 in bribes — to get her two daughters, Olivia Jade and Isabella Rose Giannulli, into the University of Southern California — through Singer’s fake charity “as well as by transferring money into the United States, from outside the United States, for the purpose of promoting the fraud scheme.” Further, she hasn’t made a deal with prosecutors and paid more money than Huffman. So Bogaards says based on the same guidelines, Loughlin could face a “minimum of five years” for both if convicted at a trial. (Loughlin’s husband, designer Mossimo Giannulli, was also among the about 50 people arrested in the scandal and faces the same charges as she does.)

Bogaards thinks that Huffman may have agreed to her deal because of something called an “exploding offer.” Basically, it would entail the U.S. attorney telling her attorney to agree to the deal or face a second indictment. While a defendant typically has time to decide — a minimum of 30 days — things moved much faster here. “I believe that the guilty plea came so quickly due to an exploding offer,” says Bogaards and part of what was dangled was likely leniency in Huffman’s sentence.

So then the bigger question then is: Why didn’t Loughlin make the same deal? “I question her entire legal team,” says Bogaards, “starting from the smiley demeanor” she had at court to “their decision not to plead guilty. I might advise switching her legal counsel — perhaps to Huffman’s legal team... Look at everything Huffman’s attorneys have done. She was dressed more seriously. She took it more seriously. She gave what many have thought is a very remorseful and earnest apology. She’s doing everything right. Then look at Loughlin by contrast.”

Bogaards continues, “Sometimes clients make a mistake by going for a large, white collar crime defense firm. It doesn’t mean they are better criminal attorneys. Loughlin has gone with either the wrong firm or has been given bad advice.”

Further, now that Loughlin has been slapped with the second indictment, it makes everything harder. “You didn’t want to get to the second superseding indictment stage because it jacks up everything so much,” Bogaards says. Also, it will be very difficult for her attorneys to make any type of agreement at this point.

“It looks like the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Massachusetts is going to take these people out,” Bogaards says, referring to Loughlin, Giannulli and the defendants who haven’t made plea deals. “They’re going to make examples of every one of them, so Lori Loughlin should be sweating bricks.”

Of course, at the end of the day, the judge always has the final say. While they have guidelines, the actual sentence could be less or more defending on the draw of the judge. Bogaards points to President Trump's former campaign chairman Paul Manafort’s back-to-back sentencing in March — during which he received one third of what is suggested in the guidelines in the first case and more time but not the max in the second case — by way of a recent example. “He was lucky twice,” Bogaards says by getting less than what the guidelines stipulate.

Regardless, people are looking forward to hearing the outcome. “For whatever reason, this” Operation Varsity Blues “case has taken the nation,” Bogaards says. “We’re all captivated by it — and the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Massachusetts is out for blood. So it’s scary for Lori Loughlin.”

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