Mercedes Colwin: Why Lori Loughlin took bad legal gamble in college admissions scandal
Lori Loughlin and Mossimo Giannulli are accused of working with William 'Rick' Singer in an effort to get their daughters Bella Rose and Olivia Jade into the University of Southern California; reaction from Fox News legal analyst Mercedes Colwin.
Fox News legal analyst Mercedes Colwin said on “America’s Newsroom” on Thursday that actress Lori Loughlin and husband Mossimo Giannulli took a bad legal gamble when they didn’t accept a plea deal like other parents who were implicated in the college admission scandal.
Colwin said the couple, who initially was charged with conspiracy to commit fraud, never anticipated that they would also face money laundering charges when they decided not to take a plea deal.
“So I think it was a gamble, and a gamble that, frankly, given all of the other parents who’ve pled, who really have light sentences… it was a gamble they lost,” Colwin told host Ed Henry.
Colwin made the statements two days after a report surfaced that said Giannulli and Loughlin’s daughters Bella Rose, 21, and Olivia Jade, 20, may become "star witnesses" in the upcoming college admissions trial.
The Hollywood couple is accused of working with scam mastermind William "Rick" Singer in an effort to get their daughters into the University of Southern California. Loughlin and Giannulli have been accused of arranging a total collective payment of $500,000 to Singer to get their daughters recruited to USC as athletes on the crew team.
Loughlin and Giannulli previously pleaded not guilty to expanded charges of bribery brought against them in October along with 11 other parents swept up in the scandal. According to Us Weekly, if Loughlin and her fashion designer husband do not change their plea to guilty, Bella Rose and Olivia Jade could be called to the stand.
A source told the outlet that the "Fuller House" star's daughters would be used as "star witnesses in hopes of securing a conviction."
“Prosecutors are looking at these two, at Lori Loughlin and her husband, saying, ‘You haven’t pled. You have seen dozens of other parents plead guilty,’” Colwin said on Thursday.
She noted, “Remember when there was a whole flood of these plea deals, they were only initially charged with conspiracy to commit fraud. They didn’t plead, suddenly the next day, the two days thereafter, the prosecutor said, ‘You didn’t plead guilty like all these other parents. I’m going to now charge you with fraud.’”
Colwin noted that the other parents who pled guilty got lighter sentences and faced lesser charges.
“They are now facing money laundering charges too, which is very significant,” Colwin said. “So this is their last point. If you don’t plead like all the others, we’re now going to use your daughters and implicate your daughters.”
She added that “The prosecutors [are] now saying, ‘Now your kids can face charges. Are you willing to now plead?’”
The charge of conspiracy to commit federal program bribery carries a maximum sentence of up to five years in prison and a fine of up to $250,000. The couple was also hit with charges of money laundering and conspiracy that could land them behind bars for 40 years if convicted on all of them.
Actress Felicity Huffman served 11 days in prison in 2019 for her own role in the national scandal.
The 57-year-old "Desperate Housewives" star pleaded guilty in May to one count of conspiracy to commit mail fraud and honest services mail fraud. She confessed to paying an admissions consultant $15,000 to have a proctor correct her older daughter Sophia's answers on the SAT.
Fox News’ Melissa Roberto contributed to this report.