ITDC INDIA EPRESS/ ITDC NEWS Desperate Housewives star Felicity Huffman has been sentenced to 14 days in prison for paying $15,000 to rig her daughter's SAT scores. Huffman was seen tearfully apologising to the teenager for not trusting her to get into college on her own.
"I was frightened, I was stupid, and I was so wrong," Huffman, 56, said as she became the first parent sentenced in a college admissions scandal that ensnared dozens of wealthy and well-connected mothers and fathers, including Lori Loughlin of Full House fame.
Huffman was one of 14 people to have pleaded guilty to “using bribery and other forms of fraud to facilitate their children’s admission to selective colleges and universities.” The scandal reinforced suspicions that the college admissions process is slanted toward the rich.
US District Judge Indira Talwani, while sentencing Huffman, noted the outrage the case has generated, adding that it "isn't because people discovered that it isn't a true meritocracy out there."
Prosecutors had sought a month in prison for Huffman, while her lawyers said she should get probation.
In all, 51 individuals have been charged in the scheme, the biggest college admissions case ever prosecuted by the Justice Department.
Prosecutors said parents schemed to manipulate test scores and bribed coaches to get their children into elite schools by having them labelled as recruited athletes for sports they didn't even play.
Huffman paid USD 15,000 to boost her older daughter's SAT scores by correcting her answers, with the help of William "Rick" Singer, an admission consultant at the centre of the scheme.
The amount paid by Huffman is relatively low compared with other bribes alleged in the scheme, that are as high as $500,000.
Besides serving time in prison, Huffman must pay a USD 30,000 fine and perform 250 hours of community service.
"I would like to apologise again to my daughter, my husband, my family and the educational community for my actions," Huffman said in an emailed statement after the sentencing hearing.
The actress has maintained that her daughter was unaware of the arrangement.
Former Stanford University sailing coach John Vandemoer is the only other person sentenced so far and received a day in prison, who admitted to helping students get into Stanford as recruited athletes in exchange for USD 270,000 for his sailing programe.
In a letter this month asking for leniency, Huffman said she turned to the scheme after her daughter's dreams of going to college and pursuing an acting career were jeopardized by her low math score. Huffman wrote, "I just wanted to give her a shot at being considered for a program where her acting talent would be the deciding factor."