Attorneys for “Desperate Housewives” star Felicity Huffman pleaded with a Boston federal judge Friday to spare her jail time after she pleaded guilty in connection with the college admissions bribery scandal and instead give her probation, community service and a fine.
In a three-page letter to U.S. District Judge Indira Talwani, Huffman wrote she has “a deep and abiding shame” for participating in a scheme in which she paid $15,000 to have a proctor correct her daughter’s SAT exam answers in the hopes of getting her into an Ivy League college.
Huffman said she was trying to give her daughter, whom she says has a diagnosed learning disability and struggles with math, an opportunity to become an actress.
“In my desperation to be a good mother, I talked myself into believing that all I was doing was giving my daughter a fair shot,” Huffman wrote. “I see the irony in that statement now because what I have done is the opposite of fair. I have broken the law, deceived the educational community, betrayed my daughter, and failed my family.”
The 56-year-old Emmy Award winner pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to commit mail fraud and honest services mail fraud in May and is scheduled to be sentenced on Sept. 13.
Huffman’s lawyers believe that one year of probation, 250 hours of community service with an organization that works with at-risk youth in Los Angeles and a $20,000 fine is fair, asserting that similar cases “almost always” result in probation rather than jail time which is “exceptionally rare.”
U.S. Attorney Andrew Lelling is pushing for one month of jail time, a year of probation after that and a $20,000 fine, a sentence he says takes into account the fact that Huffman has accepted responsibility for her actions.
Lelling says Huffman knew the scheme was wrong and participated in it anyways.
“Her efforts weren’t driven by need or desperation, but by a sense of entitlement, or at least moral cluelessness, facilitated by wealth and insularity,” his office wrote in its filing Friday. “Millions of parents send their kids to college every year. All of them care as much she does about their children’s fortunes. But they don’t buy fake SAT scores.”
Under federal sentencing guidelines, prosecutors could have sought up to six months of jail time.
Meanwhile, Huffman's actor husband William H. Macy, who wasn’t charged in the scheme, and her "Desperate Housewives" co-star Eva Longoria were among two dozen people who submitted letters to the court on her behalf.
Macy detailed his family's struggles in the wake of the scandal, saying that his wife hasn't been able to find work since she was arrested six months ago and her daughter, now in college, has been taking a gap year. He also said Huffman's younger daughter, who is in high school is attending therapy.
“Felicity’s only interest now is figuring out how to make amends and help her daughters heal and move on,” Macy wrote.
In a two-page letter, Longoria praised her friendship with Huffman calling her a "gentle character" with a "kind heart."
Longoria also said of Huffman: "She always leads with her heart and has always put others first."
Huffman is among 51 people charged in a scheme in which prosecutors say wealthy parents paid an admissions consultant to bribe coaches and test administrators to help their children get into prestigious colleges.
Huffman's bribe is among the smaller ones. "Full House" star Lori Loughlin and her fashion designer husband, Mossimo Giannulli, are charged with paying $500,000 for their two daughters to get into elite universities. Both have pleaded not guilty to charges which include conspiracy to commit fraud and money laundering and are facing maximum jail sentences of 40 years in prison.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.