BOSTON (AP) — Actress Felicity Huffman was returning to court Friday to be sentenced for her role in a sweeping college admissions bribery scandal.
The “Desperate Housewives” star was to appear in Boston federal court Friday after pleading guilty in May to a single count of conspiracy and fraud. She is the first parent to be sentenced among 34 charged in the scheme.
Huffman has admitted paying $15,000 to boost her older daughter’s SAT scores in 2017 with the help of William “Rick” Singer, an admissions consultant at the center of the scheme. Prosecutors say Huffman’s daughter was unaware of the arrangement.
Prosecutors have recommended a month in prison and a $20,000 fine, followed by supervised release.
Huffman’s attorneys asked for a year of probation, 250 hours of community service and a $20,000 fine.
The case is seen as an indicator of what’s to come for others charged in the case. Over the next two months, nearly a dozen other parents are to be sentenced after pleading guilty. Fifteen parents have pleaded guilty, while 19 are fighting the charges.
Huffman’s legal team says she was only a “customer” in a broader scheme orchestrated by others. In past cases of academic fraud, they said, only the ringleaders have gone to prison.
In a Sept. 4 letter asking for leniency, Huffman said she turned to the scheme because her daughter’s low math scores jeopardized her wish to go to college and pursuing a career in acting. The actress says she now carries “a deep and abiding shame,” she said.
Prosecutors countered that Huffman knew the scheme was wrong but chose to participate anyway. They said she was not driven by need or desperation, “but by a sense of entitlement, or at least moral cluelessness.”
The amount Huffman paid is relatively low compared to other bribes alleged in the scheme. Some parents are accused of paying up to $500,000 to get their children into elite schools by having them labeled as athletes for sports they didn’t even play.
Among those fighting the charges are actress Lori Loughlin and her fashion-designer husband, Mossimo Giannulli, who are accused of paying to get their two daughters admitted to the University of Southern California as fake athletes.
Authorities say it’s the biggest college admissions case ever prosecuted by the Justice Department, with 51 people charged.