“Lori feels like so much damage has been done publicly that the only way for her to counter it is to fight this case in court,” the source tells PEOPLE. “She feels like once all the evidence is presented, that people will understand how things happened.”
Loughlin, 54, and Giannulli, 55, face charges of mail fraud and money laundering conspiracy. If convicted, they face up to 20 years in prison for each charge.
Attorneys for the couple were in court on Monday, entering formal pleas of not guilty of the charges against them. The couple previously turned down a plea deal — and they continue to insist that going to trial is in their best interest.
“She doesn’t want to spend time in jail,” the source says, “but she knows that any sort of plea or conviction at this point will include jail time. Her only chance of avoiding jail is to go to court and be found not guilty.”
On March 12, the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Massachusetts announced that it had charged 50 people, including Felicity Huffman, Loughlin and her husband, in the cheating scandal. Along with coaches, admissions counselors and fellow parents, they were accused of alleged crimes such as falsifying SAT scores and lying about the athletic skills of their children.
Prosecutors alleged that Loughlin and Giannulli paid $500,000 to admissions consultant William “Rick” Singer and his nonprofit organization, Key Worldwide Foundation (“KWF”), which prosecutors said was actually a front for accepting bribes, to have their daughters Olivia Jade, 19, and Isabella Rose, 20, designated as recruits to the USC crew team — despite the fact that they did not participate in crew — thereby facilitating their admission to USC.” (Neither Olivia Jade, 19, and Isabella Rose, 20, are listed on the USC women’s rowing roster.)
Singer has since admitted his role as the ringleader of the scam and has pleaded guilty to multiple charges.
Reps for Loughlin and Giannulli have not returned PEOPLE’s requests for comment.
The source, who previously told PEOPLE the couple didn’t intend to do anything illegal, maintains that they believe the evidence will eventually exonerate them.
“Everyone has seen snippets of the evidence, but there’s a lot more out there,” says the source. “When you look at it in context, you can argue that this is a woman who didn’t understand exactly what she was doing — and she was being counseled and guided by a man who this was his area of expertise. When the evidence comes out, she’ll have a case to make.”
The source adds: “At this point, if she pleads guilty, she feels like the mitigating evidence will never see the light of day.”
A trial date has not yet been set.