Judgment Day for College Admissions Scandal
I wrote about the college admissions scandal back in March. Today we find out if the rich parents, who bribed and cheated to get their kids into elite colleges, will go to prison.
It’s looking unlikely.
First up, actress Felicity Huffman, who contributed $15,000 to a phony charity in return for someone changing the answers on her daughter’s SATs. She’s being sentenced in a Massachusetts federal court today after pleading guilty to two charges of mail fraud.
In a letter to the judge, Huffman said, “In my desperation to be a good mother I talked myself into believing that all I was doing was giving my daughter a fair shot.”
She didn't think it was fair that her kid couldn’t get into good colleges because she wasn’t good at math.
So instead of hiring a math tutor or finding a school that didn’t require high math scores, Mommy stroked a check for 15 grand and voila! her daughter’s SAT scores soared. This means that some deserving high school senior - who could do math - got bumped from this unnamed school’s freshman class to make room for Huffman’s daughter.
You want to talk fair, Ms. Huffman?
Sadly, legal experts familiar with the case believe Huffman won’t go to prison. Her crimes are of the white collar variety. Since no party lost money because of her fraud, they say it’s unlikely she’ll spend any time behind bars.
Prosecutors, however, are asking that she serve 30 days and pay a $20,000 fine. That should be the minimum.
If Huffman and the other wealthy defendants escape incarceration it feeds the perception that there are two tiers of justice: One for the elites, another for the hoi polloi.
In a piece headlined Felicity Huffman Probably Won’t Go To Prison for the College Admissions Scandal, and Here’s Why, Time Magazine contrasted the gentle treatment Huffman’s likely to receive today with the justice an Ohio woman, Kelley Williams-Bolar, got for a far less serious education-related crime in 2011.
Ms. Williams-Bolar, a single mother, registered her two daughters for school using their grandfather’s address, because he lived in a more affluent Akron neighborhood than they did. One with better schools.
What this mother did was wrong - although it happens all over the country - but she was simply trying to put her girls in a safe school with good teachers, so they could get a quality education. She wasn’t trying to sneak them into colleges where they didn’t belong.
For her crimes, Williams-Bolar spent nine days in jail, got three years probation and was fined a whopping $70,000. (Her felony conviction was later reduced to a misdemeanor by then-Gov. John Kasich.)
“The justice system is not just for everyone,” she told TIME. “I was a divorced mom, a black mom, living in an inner-city, just trying to make my way, trying to go to college, trying to start over again, and the justice system didn’t have any mercy on that at all.”
I know, I know. State and federal courts are different animals. The federal laws Huffman broke are not the same as the state laws that ensnared Williams-Bolar.
Huffman’s crimes are far more serious. She was part of an elaborate scheme to fraudulently get undeserving students into prestigious schools.
If the Hollywood actress walks out of court this afternoon without spending a night in prison, her sentence will help undermine faith in the justice system. Not only were these entitled, amoral parents willing to spend mountains of money to rig college acceptances, but the fancy lawyers they hired also kept them on the right side of the prison walls.
I hope the judge remembers that these college admission crimes were NOT victimless. Ordinary students, who go to class, study and take their own tests, were nudged out of the way to make way for the privileged class.
Frankly, I think this red carpet criminal would look pretty good in orange.