The judge in Lori Loughlin's college admission scandal case wants answers from the government about "serious and disturbing" claims of misconduct. It’s a small win for the Full House star, who is facing up to 50 years in prison.
In a three-page memorandum and order submitted Friday, which has been viewed by Yahoo Entertainment, U.S. District Judge Nathaniel Gorton responded after the defense submitted a motion to dismiss the indictment. Loughlin's attorneys argue federal agents entrapped her and her husband, Mossimo Giannulli, and that the case should be thrown out. Loughlin and Giannulli are accused of paying $500,000 to get their daughters admitted to USC.
Loughlin's defense team also claims the prosecution withheld evidence, citing notes of consultant William "Rick" Singer they say prove the government's interference. Singer is a key witness.
"During the course of their investigation of defendants, the government offered Singer the opportunity to cooperate and Singer agreed to a consensual wiretap of his phone," the judge writes. "Subsequently, he made rehearsed calls to the defendants designed to elicit evidence for use in the government’s prosecution."
Singer took notes after the calls, and one in particular is the basis of Loughlin’s complaints of misconduct.
In notes from Oct. 2, 2018, Singer detailed "a troubling conversation," the judge notes, in which "unspecified 'agents' aggressively pressured him and directly instructed him to lie to elicit incriminating information from potential defendants."
"The government responds that it was unnecessary to investigate those claims because there was 'nothing to investigate' and the agents knew his contentions were untrue," the judge writes. "Moreover, his notes were written before Singer had accepted responsibility for obstructing the investigation and, in any event, any alleged entrapment is an issue for trial."
The judge continues, "The court considers the allegations in Singer's October notes to be serious and disturbing. While government agents are permitted to coach cooperating witnesses during the course of an investigation, they are not permitted to suborn the commission of a crime."
Loughlin's defense team argues that she and her husband believed they were making a legitimate donation to USC.
"We now know that from the beginning of his cooperation, Singer informed the government that he had told parents that their payments were legitimate donations to university programs — not bribes to benefit corrupt insiders," the defense team wrote in their motion, which has been viewed by Yahoo Entertainment. "But because those facts would undermine its case, the government became 'loud and abrasive' and browbeat Singer into trying to procure false admissions from parents over the phone."
The prosecution has denied entrapment claims; however, Judge Gorton ordered the government to respond to allegations of investigatorial misconduct.
An attorney for Loughlin declined to comment when reached by Yahoo Entertainment on Friday.
Prosecutors admitted it was a "mistake" not to turn over Singer’s notes, but maintain Loughlin, Giannulli and dozens of other parents broke the law.
Watch — Prosecutors release the photos of Lori Loughlin’s daughters posing on rowing machines in college admissions scandal:
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