‘Nobody is perfect’: Felicity Huffman’s costars come to her defense in college admissions scandal

Actress Felicity Huffman arrives at federal court in Boston in April to face charges in the nationwide college admissions bribery scandal. She later pleaded guilty to a fraud conspiracy charge.
(Charles Krupa / Associated Press)

Felicity Huffman is waiting to learn whether she’ll be spared or sent to prison after pleading guilty amid the college admissions scandal and admitting she paid $15,000 to fix her daughter’s SAT score — a “transgression,” in her words, that “I will carry for the rest of my life.”

Now, her costars and co-workers on a Netflix movie are coming to her defense.

“Nobody is perfect in this world,” Patricia Arquette, who appears alongside Huffman in “Otherhood,” told the Associated Press. “And I do think she’s genuinely sorry.”


What has Huffman admitted to doing?

The actress pleaded guilty in a Boston courtroom in May to a fraud conspiracy charge for her role in a brazen test-fixing and bribery scheme.


Huffman, 56, admitted to paying $15,000 to William “Rick” Singer, a Newport Beach college admissions consultant, to inflate her daughter’s SAT score. Thirty-four parents have been charged in the wide-ranging case.

Singer told investigators he went to Huffman’s home in 2017 and explained to the actress and her husband, actor William H. Macy, how the scheme worked. Singer told the couple he “controlled” a private school in West Hollywood, where Huffman’s daughter would take the exam; he explained that an accomplice, 36-year-old Mark Riddell, would proctor the exam and correct their daughter’s answers after she finished the test. Singer typically paid Riddell $10,000 per rigged exam.

Huffman and Macy agreed to the arrangement, according to an FBI affidavit filed in federal court.

Key to the scheme, prosecutors said, was securing extra time for Huffman’s daughter on the SAT because of a learning disability, which would allow Riddell to proctor the exam at a school of Singer’s choosing. In October 2017, Huffman learned her daughter got the extra-time designation. She emailed Singer: “Hurray!”

The next day, when a counselor at her daughter’s school told Huffman she would have to take the test at her own school, the actress emailed Singer again: “Ruh Ro!”


Singer intervened. With Huffman’s help, he explained that the girl was taking the test elsewhere and on a weekend because she didn’t want to miss a school day.

Huffman’s daughter took the SAT in December 2017. Once she’d finished, Riddell, a Harvard graduate and administrator at Florida’s famed IMG Academy for athletes, corrected her answers.

Huffman has said her daughter knew nothing of the scheme.


What are the next steps?

Huffman will be sentenced Sept. 13 by U.S. District Judge Indira Talwani.

Prosecutors have recommended a sentence at the low end of guidelines that call for four to 10 months in prison, according to Huffman’s plea deal and federal sentencing guidelines. She will also pay a $20,000 fine.

But Huffman’s attorneys said in her plea agreement that they reserve the right to argue that her sentence should be calculated at a slightly lower range than what prosecutors have proposed. If they succeed in that argument, Huffman could face a sentence of no time at all to six months in prison, according to federal sentencing guidelines.

Talwani, however, is not required to follow sentencing recommendations from prosecutors. In the first sentencing in the case, U.S. District Judge Rya W. Zobel spared a Stanford sailing coach prison, despite a recommendation from the government that he spend 13 months behind bars for conspiring to usher unqualified applicants into Stanford as sailing recruits in exchange for $610,000 in contributions to his sailing program.


What has Huffman said?

Huffman said she would not contest the government’s allegations and apologized to the public, her friends, her family and her daughter, who Huffman said knew nothing of the test-fixing scheme.

“I am in full acceptance of my guilt, and with deep regret and shame over what I have done, I accept full responsibility for my actions and will accept the consequences that stem from those actions. I am ashamed of the pain I have caused my daughter, my family, my friends, my colleagues and the educational community,” she said.

“I want to apologize to them and, especially, I want to apologize to the students who work hard every day to get into college, and to their parents who make tremendous sacrifices to support their children and do so honestly. My daughter knew absolutely nothing about my actions, and in my misguided and profoundly wrong way, I have betrayed her.”


What have her “Otherhood” costars said?

Though Huffman has not promoted the movie, her costars have spoken out on her behalf.

Arquette told Entertainment Tonight that Huffman feels terrible.

“Well, I left her a message because I do think she’s — I mean, I haven’t spoken to her, but I feel that she’s sincerely truly sorry and feels she made a humongous mistake,” Arquette said. “I think she dealt with it the best way that you can deal with it, but I know she’s probably carrying a lot of shame and guilt.


“That’s all I can really do, is just leave her a message and say, ‘You know, I think you handled it the best you could’ve and I know you feel terrible about this,’” Arquette continued. “We’re thinking about you.”

“Otherhood” producer Cathy Shulman added, according to the Associated Press: “The Felicity that I know and love and worked with is a person who has had a hard year experiencing a flaw. And we wish you the best. And we don’t feel that it overshadows our film in any way, shape or form because mothering is complicated and we do what we need to do.”

Times staff writers Richard Winton and Shelby Grad contributed to this report.