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Apologetic actress Felicity Huffman gets 14-day prison term in US college scandal

Felicity Huffman leaves federal court with her husband William H. Macy, left, and her brother Moore Huffman Jr. rear center, after she was sentenced in a nationwide college admissions bribery scandal. Picture: Michael Dwyer/AP

Felicity Huffman leaves federal court with her husband William H. Macy, left, and her brother Moore Huffman Jr. rear center, after she was sentenced in a nationwide college admissions bribery scandal. Picture: Michael Dwyer/AP

Published Sep 14, 2019

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Boston - Actress Felicity Huffman, the

first parent sentenced in a wide-ranging U.S. college admissions

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cheating scandal, was given a 14-day prison term on Friday and

made a somber apology in federal court for paying to rig her

daughter's entrance exam.

U.S. District Judge Indira Talwani also ordered Huffman, the

former star of the popular television series "Desperate

Housewives" and one-time Academy Award nominee, to pay a $30,000

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fine, undergo a year of supervised release and complete 250

hours of community service. Huffman, 56, pleaded guilty in May.

"My first apology is to you," Huffman, wearing a black

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dress, told the judge immediately before being sentenced.

"I realise now as a mother that love and truth must go hand

in hand, and love at the expense of truth is not real love," the

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actress said. "I will deserve whatever punishment you give me."

Huffman was released from court after the judge ordered her

to report to prison on October 25. Her husband, actor William H.

Macy, who had been seated in the courtroom and is not charged in

the scheme, immediately approached her after court adjourned and

rubbed her shoulders.

The scandal cast a spotlight on the advantages of wealth in

college admissions and the lengths to which some rich Americans

have gone to get their children into top universities at the

expense of other applicants.

Huffman was among 51 people charged in a vast scheme in

which wealthy parents were accused of conspiring to use bribery

and other forms of fraud to secure for their children admission

to prominent U.S. universities. These schools included Yale,

Stanford, Georgetown, the University of Southern California, the

University of Texas and Wake Forest.

After the sentencing hearing, Huffman issued a statement

expanding on her apology.

"I especially want to apologise to the students who work

hard every day to get into college, and to their parents who

make tremendous sacrifices supporting their children," Huffman

said in the statement.

"My hope now is that my family, my friends and my community

will forgive me for my actions," Huffman added.

Prosecutors had recommended a sentence of one month behind

bars after Huffman tearfully entered a guilty plea to conspiracy

related to her payment of $15,000 to have someone secretly

correct answers her daughter Sophia provided on the SAT

standardized test used for college admissions.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Eric Rosen said incarceration was

the only way to punish a wealthy person like Huffman whose real

currency is fame.

"In prison there are no paparazzi. It's the great leveler,"

Rosen said.

Huffman's lawyer, Martin Murphy, said the actress and

particularly her daughter Sophia had suffered enough and urged

the judge to limit the punishment to probation. In the days

after Huffman's arrest, her daughter's top choice college

rescinded its acceptance of her.

"There are consequences. Her daughter is not going to

school. Consequences are likely to continue," Murphy told the

judge.

More than 30 parents were charged in the investigation

dubbed Operation Varsity Blues, also including actress Lori

Loughlin, who starred in the TV series "Full House," and her

designer husband Mossimo Giannulli, as well as a host of

corporate executives, financiers and lawyers. Unlike Huffman,

Loughlin and Giannulli pleaded not guilty.

Prosecutors said the accused parents acted with the help of

William "Rick" Singer, a California college admissions

consultant who pleaded guilty in March to helping bribe

university sports coaches to present clients' children as fake

athletic recruits. Singer's sentencing is set for later this

month.

Huffman, who won an Emmy award for "Desperate Housewives"

and was nominated for an Oscar as best actress for her role in

the 2005 film "Transamerica," said the cheating scheme was

proposed by Singer.

Huffman said her daughter was unaware of the scheme until

the actress was arrested on March 12.

"I find Motherhood bewildering," Huffman said in a letter to

the judge before sentencing.

"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.

Macy, 69, said their daughter "certainly paid the dearest

price" when her desired school - which remained unnamed in court

documents - rescinded its acceptance of her after Huffman's

arrest.

Reuters

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