September 13, 2019 / 10:04 AM / 2 months ago

CORRECTED-Actress Felicity Huffman heads to court for U.S. college scandal sentencing

(Corrects number of those charged in scandal to 51)

By Valerie Vande Panne

BOSTON, Sept 13 (Reuters) - Actress Felicity Huffman, the first parent to be sentenced in a wide-ranging college admissions scandal, faces prison time on Friday for admittedly paying to rig her daughter’s entrance exam.

Prosecutors recommended U.S. District Judge Indira Talwani sentence Huffman to one month behind bars after she pleaded guilty in May to conspiracy related to her payment of $15,000 to have someone secretly correct her daughter’s answers on the SAT test, according to court documents.

The one-time star of the television series “Desperate Housewives” is among 51 people accused in a scheme that involved cheating or bribery in which wealthy parents used fraud to secure their children spots at prominent U.S. universities including Yale, Georgetown and the University of Southern California. Among those charged in “Operation Varsity Blues” are Huffman, who was nominated for an Oscar for her role in 2005’s “Transamerica,” and Lori Loughlin, who starred in the TV series “Full House.”

“Incarceration ... would provide just punishment for the offense, make it clear that this was a real crime, causing real harm, and reinforce the vital principle that all are equally subject to the law regardless of wealth or position,” U.S. Attorney Andrew Lelling said in pre-sentencing documents, also recommending a $20,000 fine and one year of probation.

Huffman’s attorneys argued in their own court documents that she is “remorseful” and “deeply ashamed” and should remain free on one year’s probation, complete 250 hours of community service and pay a $20,000 fine.

“I find Motherhood bewildering,” Huffman, 56, who is married to the actor William H. Macy, said in a letter to the judge.

Her daughter, who was 4 years old when Huffman first started trying to help her deal with learning disabilities, was unaware of the cheating scheme until Huffman’s arrest in March, she said.

“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?’ ... I have compromised my daughter’s future, the wholeness of my family and my own integrity,” Huffman said in her letter.

She said the cheating scheme was proposed by William “Rick” Singer, a California college admissions consultant.

Singer pleaded guilty in March to charges he helped bribe university sports coaches to present clients’ children as fake athletic recruits. His sentencing was set for later this month. (Additional reporting by Barbara Goldberg in New York; Editing by Steve Orlofsky)

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