Video footage of Felicity Huffman and Lori Loughlin has become part of a legal battle in the college admissions scandal, with prosecutors asking a judge to restrict access to evidence they will begin turning over to defense attorneys.
Over the last year, federal investigators in Massachusetts have amassed a trove of emails, wiretapped phone calls, surveillance photographs and video and financial records that they used to build a case, unsealed last month, implicating 50 people in a vast conspiracy to subvert the admissions process at some of the country’s most selective universities.
Huffman and Loughlin — two of 33 parents charged with fraud, conspiracy and other crimes — headlined a list of defendants including well-known names from Hollywood, Silicon Valley and Newport Coast.
Huffman has agreed to plead guilty to a single charge of fraud conspiracy. Loughlin has pleaded not guilty to charges of fraud conspiracy and money laundering.
Prosecutors must begin turning over evidence to defense attorneys next week. The first tranche of digitized records comprises 130 gigabytes, according to an attorney for Donna Heinel, a former athletics official at USC who is accused of conspiring with the scheme’s admitted mastermind, Newport Beach college admissions consultant William “Rick” Singer.
Prosecutors have asked a judge to curtail by whom and where the evidence can be viewed because it contains sensitive personal information and the names of people who are targets of the investigation but have yet to be charged.
Defense attorneys strongly oppose such an order, calling the request “draconian,” “unfounded,” and a “strong-arm” tactic.
In a meeting Monday, prosecutors told Heinel’s lawyers that they were asking the judge to restrict access to the evidence because they were concerned that a defendant might leak video from Huffman’s or Loughlin’s home to the media, an attorney for Heinel wrote in a motion.
“This laughably cannot qualify as a reason to deny Ms. Heinel, a 58-year-old woman with no criminal history who stands accused of a nonviolent, white-collar offense, her rightful access to discovery,” said the attorney, Nina Marino.
It’s unclear what the videos show.
Heinel, a longtime fixture of USC’s athletic department, was indicted last month on a charge of racketeering. She has pleaded not guilty.
Loughlin and her husband, fashion designer J. Mossimo Giannulli, are accused of paying $500,000 to have their two daughters admitted to USC as rowing recruits even though they had never competed in the sport, according to an affidavit filed in federal court.
In indictments unsealed last week, the couple and 14 other parents face two charges: fraud conspiracy and money laundering conspiracy. Parents who fight the charges and are convicted are likely to face weightier sentences than those who agree to plead guilty.
Prosecutors said Huffman paid $15,000 for a 36-year-old Harvard graduate to correct her daughter’s answers on the SAT, giving the girl a 400-point boost over a previous score. Huffman later discussed pursuing a similar scheme for her younger daughter but decided not to follow through with it, according to court records.
In announcing she would plead guilty, Huffman expressed deep remorse.
“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 in a statement.