The couple arrived at the courthouse at around 2:45 p.m. on Tuesday and entered through the back door.
The Full House star, 55, and Giannulli, 56, officially waived their rights to separate attorneys. They are being represented by attorneys from the same law firm in order to put forth a “united front,” sources have told PEOPLE.
During the nearly hour-long hearing, lawyers for the government and defense attorneys were given a chance to speak, with government lawyers raising concerns about joint representation and defense counsel assuring the judge that safeguards have been put in place to avoid conflicts. Loughlin and Giannulli both signed waivers to be represented by the same law firm, which the judge allowed.
U.S. Magistrate Judge M. Page Kelley held off on ruling on one potential waiver that would allow Giannulli to be represented by a lawyer who is also representing others who have pleaded guilty and are cooperating. She will decide on that conflict in the next couple of days.
The judge warned the couple of the potential risks of having joint counsel, too.
“You need to have the undivided loyalty of counsel,” she said. “Attorneys from the same firm don’t typically represent people who might have a conflict of interest. … If attorneys are in the same firm, they are considered to be the same lawyer.”
One of the attorneys representing Lori and Mossimo took an opportunity during the hearing to defend his clients’ actions, taking exception with prosecutors’ claims and saying that payments were never made to University of Southern California employees and that they believed the donations made to admissions consultant William “Rick” Singer were charitable donations.
#BREAKING: #LoriLoughlin just entered Federal Court ahead of a conflict-of-interest hearing involving her lawyers.— Eli Rosenberg NBC10 Boston (@EliNBCBoston) August 27, 2019
This is all part of the #collegeadmissionsscandal. @NBC10Boston pic.twitter.com/tHBdxpUr2h
According to legal expert James J. Leonard Jr., Esq., their decision comes with one potential downside.
“The risk with any joint defense is that one defendant may be more culpable than another and the less culpable defendant could suffer as a result of a strategy designed to protect that individual,” he explains.
When the hearing was over, the couple tried to make quick escape out the back entrance but were swarmed by media as they got into their car. Holding hands, they sprinted out the back door along with a posse of lawyers.They did not answer any questions from the media.
On March 12, the U.S. attorney’s office in Massachusetts indicted Loughlin and Giannulli in the shocking nationwide scam dubbed Operation Varsity Blues. The pair and nearly 50 other parents, coaches, exam proctors and admissions counselors are accused of such actions as paying for boosted SAT scores and lying about students’ athletic skills in order to gain them acceptance to elite colleges including Yale, Georgetown and Stanford.
Loughlin and Giannulli allegedly paid $500,000 to Singer to falsely designate daughters Olivia Jade Giannulli, 19, and Isabella Rose Giannulli, 20, as recruits to the University of Southern California crew team, though neither actually participated in the sport.
While 14 defendants, including actress Felicity Huffman, agreed to plead guilty in April, Loughlin and Giannulli declined a plea deal.
“They weren’t ready to accept that,” one legal source said at the time.
Since neither Loughlin nor Giannulli has a criminal record, if they are convicted of the same offenses, the judge will likely hand down identical sentences, Leonard says.