U.S. District Judge in Los Angeles, California, Indira Talwani will decide next Friday whether to send actress Felicity Huffman to one month imprisonment or give more lenient sentence, based on the conflicting filings by prosecutors and her lawyers.
The prosecutors are asking for one-month prison for her, to be the first parent that will go to jail in the college admissions scandal that exploded in March with the arrests of Huffman and nearly three-dozen other parents.
Huffman pleaded guilty to the fraud conspiracy charge in May, admitting she conspired with college admissions consultant William “Rick” Singer to fix her daughter’s entrance exams.
But since Huffman tearfully admitted her guilt and issued a written mea culpa, she has brought up “quibbles” with prosecutors, they said in a court filing Friday, in an attempt to “imply that [she] is somehow less guilty — that she participated in fraud only reluctantly, without fully understanding it.”
“That is false,” prosecutors wrote.
In a filing of their own, Huffman’s attorneys on Friday requested a year of probation, a $20,000 fine and 250 hours of community service, saying she is remorseful and “deeply ashamed.”
Included in the filing is a letter from Huffman, addressed to the judge who will decide next week whether to spare her or send her to prison.
Huffman told U.S. District Judge Indira Talwani she was “shocked” to hear Singer propose rigging her daughter’s SAT. But before long, she said, she felt a mounting sense of panic that her daughter’s SAT scores were too low and posed a “huge obstacle” to her future.
“As warped as this sounds now,” she said, “I honestly began to feel that maybe I would be a bad mother if I didn’t do what Mr. Singer was suggesting.”
She said she toyed with the idea for six weeks before agreeing to pay Singer $15,000 to fix her daughter’s score.
In December 2017, Mark Riddell, Singer’s Harvard-educated accomplice, changed the girl’s answers after she took the test at a West Hollywood school where Singer had allegedly bribed a proctor to permit the cheating.
Huffman and prosecutors say her daughter had no knowledge of the scheme.
Both Singer and Riddell have pleaded guilty to an array of felonies and are awaiting sentencing. The proctor, Igor Dvorskiy, has pleaded not guilty to conspiracy to commit racketeering.
While Huffman told the judge there is “no justification for what I have done,” she said she wanted to lay out in the letter her reasoning, misguided as it was, to try to explain how a wealthy mother who could offer her children every legitimate advantage decided to break the law.
From the day her first child was born, Huffman said she has been “bewildered” by motherhood: “I so desperately wanted to do it right and was so deathly afraid of doing it wrong.”
Panicked, insecure and worried her daughter’s low math scores would hinder her acting dreams, Huffman said she managed to convince herself that fixing her daughter’s test scores amounted to “giving her a fair shot.”
“I see the irony in that statement now because what I have done is the opposite of fair,” she said. “I have broken the law, deceived the educational community, betrayed my daughter and failed my family.”
Sometime after her mother was led away in handcuffs the morning of March 12, Huffman’s daughter asked her, tearfully, “Why didn’t you believe in me? Why didn’t you think I could do it on my own?” Huffman wrote in her letter.
“I had no adequate answer for her,” Huffman wrote. “I could only say, ‘I’m sorry. I was frightened and I was stupid.’”