Judge refuses to dismiss charges against Loughlin, Giannulli

Judge refuses to dismiss charges against Loughlin, Giannulli

A judge refused Friday to dismiss charges against actress Lori Loughlin, her fashion designer husband, Mossimo Giannulli, and other prominent parents accused of cheating the college admissions process who argue they were entrapped by federal authorities.

U.S. District Judge Nathaniel Gorton rejected the defence’s bid to toss the indictment over allegations of misconduct by FBI agents in the case that has rocked the world of higher education. The judge also denied their attempt to block prosecutors from presenting certain secretly recorded phone calls at trial.

“The Court is satisfied that government’s counsel has not lied to or attempted to mislead the Court or fabricated evidence,” Gorton wrote in his ruling.

A lawyer for the couple declined to comment on Friday.

Loughlin and Giannulli are scheduled to go on trial in October on charges that they paid $500,000 to get their daughters into the University of Southern California as crew recruits even though neither girl was a rower. They denied paying bribes and said they believed their payments were legitimate donations.

They were among 50 people charged last year in the case dubbed “Operation Varsity Blues.” Authorities said wealthy parents paid huge sums to secure students’ admission at elite schools as fake athletic recruits or have someone cheat on their entrance exams.

The judge’s decision came after he ordered prosecutors to explain iPhone notes written by the admitted mastermind of the admissions cheating scheme — Rick Singer — when he was secretly working with the government in October 2018.

In his notes, Singer wrote that investigators told him to lie to get parents to make incriminating statements over recorded phone calls. The agents instructed him to say he told the parents the payments were bribes, instead of donations, according to the notes made public in legal filings.

“They continue to ask me to tell a fib and not restate what I told my clients as to where there money was going — to the program not the coach and that it was a donation and they want it to be a payment,” Singer wrote, according to court documents.

Gorton had called Singer’s claims in his notes “serious and disturbing.”

The defence argued the notes show that agents bullied Singer into fabricating evidence by tricking the parents into falsely agreeing that the payments were bribes.

The agents in the case denied pressuring Singer to lie and said they had been instructing him to be more explicit with new clients who had not already gone through with the bribery scheme. Prosecutors said Singer took the notes when he hadn’t yet fully accepted responsibility for his crimes. Furthermore, prosecutors said it doesn’t matter whether Singer called the payments bribes or donations, because it was still an illegal quid pro quo.

Gorton wrote Friday that prosecutors’ failure to turn over Singer’s notes to the defence earlier was “irresponsible and misguided,” but not “wilful.” Gorton said agents were trying to get Singer to corroborate, not fabricate, evidence. And if defence attorneys disagree, they’ll have “ample opportunity” to cross examine Singer at trial, the judge said.

“Whether Singer’s calls in October, 2018, were consistent with his prior representations of his ‘program’ and whether they demonstrate that defendants believed their payments to be legitimate donations rather than bribes is an issue squarely for the jury after a trial on the merits,” he wrote.

Singer pleaded guilty and is expected to be a crucial witness at the trials. He began co-operating with investigators in September 2018 and secretly recorded his phone calls with parents to build the case against them.

Nearly two dozen parents have already pleaded guilty in the case, including “Desperate Housewives” actress Felicity Huffman. She served nearly two weeks in prison after she admitted to paying $15,000 to have someone correct her daughter’s entrance exam answers.

Alanna Durkin Richer, The Associated Press

college admission scandal

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Alberta has 3,651 active cases of COVID-19. (File photo)
432 new COVID cases sets another record Friday

Central zone holds steady at 126 active cases

"We are looking seriously at the spread and determining what our next steps should be," says Alberta’s chief medical officer of health, Dr. Deena Hinshaw, as the daily number of COVID-19 cases continues to climb.
427 new COVID cases is highest in Alberta ever

Central zone has 126 active cases of COVID-19

100 Women Who Care make a donation to Sylvan Lake Food Bank and Bethany Care Centre. Photo By Megan Roth/Sylvan Lake News
100 Women Who Care donate to four Sylvan Lake groups

The Food Bank, Bethany Sylvan Lake, Community Partners and the Library all received a donation

RCMP. (Black Press File Photo)
Calgary man dies in two-vehicle collision near Sylvan Lake

A semi truck collided with a SUV just east of Hwy. 781 on Hwy 11.

Shaelynn Decock and her dog Taco, who has been missing since Aug. 26. Photo Submitted
Sylvan Lake woman looking for closure for her stolen dog

Shaelynn Decock says it has been two months since she last saw her dog Taco

B.C. Liberal leader Andrew Wilkinson, B.C. NDP leader John Horgan and B.C. Greens leader Sonia Furstenau. (Black Press Media)
VIDEO: One day until B.C. voters go to the polls in snap election defined by pandemic

NDP Leader John Horgan’s decision to call an election comes more than a year ahead of schedule and during a pandemic

This photo provided by Air Force Reserve shows a sky view of Hurricane Epsilon taken by Air Force Reserve hurricane hunter team over the Atlantic Ocean taken Wednesday, Oct. 21, 2020.   Epsilon’s maximum sustained winds have dropped slightly as it prepares to sideswipe Bermuda on a path over the Atlantic Ocean.  The National Hurricane Center says it should come close enough Thursday, Oct. 22, evening to merit a tropical storm warning for the island.  (Air Force Reserve via AP)
Hurricane Epsilon expected to remain offshore but will push waves at Atlantic Canada

Epsilon is not expected to have any real impact on land

A voter places her absentee ballot in the ballot box, Wednesday, Oct. 7, 2020, at Merrill Auditorium in Portland, Maine. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP/Robert F. Bukaty
American voters living in Canada increasingly being counted in presidential race

The largest number of Canadian-based American voters cast their ballots in New York and California

A composite image of three photographs shows BC NDP Leader John Horgan, left, in Coquitlam, B.C., on Sept. 25, 2020; BC Green Party Leader Sonia Furstenau, centre, in Victoria on Sept. 24, 2020; and BC Liberal Party Leader Andrew Wilkinson Pitt Meadows, B.C., on Sept. 24, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck, Chad Hipolito
British Columbia votes in snap election called during COVID-19 pandemic

NDP Leader John Horgan called the snap election one year before the fixed voting date

Nunavut's provincial flag flies on a flag pole in Ottawa, on Tuesday June 30, 2020. The annual report from Nunavut's representative for children and youth says "complacency and a lack of accountability" in the territory's public service means basic information about young people needing services isn’t tracked. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Nunavut’s young people ‘should be expecting more’ from government services: advocate

‘The majority of information we requested is not tracked or was not provided by departments’

Ryen Williams, 11, with a lost miniature horse at JJ Collett Oct. 23. Photo by Don Williams
UPDATE: Owners found

Father and son found him while out for a walk at JJ Collett

A Le Chateau retail store is shown in Montreal on Wednesday July 13, 2016. Le Chateau Inc. says it is seeking court protection from creditors under the Companies’ Creditors Arrangement Act to allow it to liquidate its assets and wind down its operations.THE CANADIAN PRESS/Ryan Remiorz
Clothing retailer Le Chateau plans to close its doors, files for CCAA protection

Le Chateau said it intends to remain fully operational as it liquidates its 123 stores

U.S. border officers at the Peace Arch crossing arrested two men on California warrants this week. (File photo)
Ottawa predicts system delays, backlogs unless court extends life of refugee pact

Canada and the United States recognize each other as safe places to seek protection

Conservative member of Parliament Michelle Rempel Garner, left to right, Conservative Leader Erin O’Toole and Conservative Deputy Leader Candice Bergen arrive to hold a press conference in Ottawa on Thursday, Oct. 22, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
No-confidence showdown over sweeping Tory motion on government handling of pandemic

The Conservative motion is to be put to a vote Monday and has the support of both the Bloc Québécois and NDP

Most Read