Lori Loughlin, Mossimo Giannulli lose bid to toss charges in college admissions case

Lori Loughlin and her husband, Mossimo Giannulli, were just dealt a setback in their legal case after a judge refused to dismiss charges against the couple as well as other prominent parents accused of cheating the college admissions process, who had argued they were entrapped by federal authorities.

On Friday, U.S. District Judge Nathaniel Gorton rejected the defense's bid to toss the indictment over allegations of misconduct by FBI agents. In addition, the judge also denied their attempt to block prosecutors from presenting certain secretly recorded phone calls at trial.

“The Court is satisfied that government’s counsel has not lied to or attempted to mislead the Court or fabricated evidence,” Gorton wrote in his ruling.

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An attorney for the couple did not immediately respond to Fox News' request for comment. A lawyer for the pair declined to comment when reached by The Associated Press.

Loughlin, 55, and Giannulli, 56, are scheduled to go on trial in October on charges that they paid $500,000 to get their daughters into the University of Southern California as crew recruits even though neither girl was a rower. They denied paying bribes and said they believed their payments were legitimate donations.

Lori Loughlin and husband Mossimo Giannulli leave the John Joseph Moakley United States Courthouse in Boston on Aug. 27, 2019.

Lori Loughlin and husband Mossimo Giannulli leave the John Joseph Moakley United States Courthouse in Boston on Aug. 27, 2019. (Getty)

Earlier this week, it was reported that an anonymous source close to Loughlin and Giannulli had believed that the alleged misconduct on the part of federal investigators would ultimately lead to the case being dropped.

“Lori’s lawyers feel they have a very strong chance of having the charges dismissed because prosecutors withheld key evidence that [ringleader] Rick Singer was pressured by the FBI to lie in the course of his conversations with Lori,” the source explained to Us Weekly. “It was entrapment, misleading a defendant so that Rick could get a favorable sentence for his role. Rick was the mastermind in all of this.”

The judge’s decision came after he ordered prosecutors to explain iPhone notes written by Singer -- the admitted mastermind behind the admissions cheating scandal -- when he was secretly working with the government in October 2018.

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In court documents previously obtained by Fox News, attorneys for the famous couple argued that the entire case should be thrown out after notes from Singer seemingly showed that agents had urged him to lie in order to implicate parents like Loughlin and Giannulli in committing a criminal act.

The couple’s defense also alleged that the prosecution was withholding this evidence for fear it was exonerating to their clients. However, Variety reported at the time that in a new April 8 court filing, the prosecution denied both that it acted in bad faith and that the evidence is at all exonerating.

“In a sprawling, fast-moving prosecution, the failure to produce the notes earlier was simply a mistake,” Assistant U.S. Attorney Steven E. Frank wrote in the new filing. “The defendants have suffered no prejudice, and their suggestion that the notes somehow ‘exonerate’ them, or reveal that the evidence against them was fabricated, is demonstrably false.”

In his notes, Singer wrote that investigators told him to lie to get parents to make incriminating statements over recorded phone calls. The agents instructed him to say he told the parents the payments were bribes, instead of donations, according to the notes made public in legal filings.

“They continue to ask me to tell a fib and not restate what I told my clients as to where there money was going — to the program not the coach and that it was a donation and they want it to be a payment,” Singer wrote, according to court documents.

Gorton had called Singer’s claims in his notes “serious and disturbing.”

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The defense argued the notes show that agents bullied Singer into fabricating evidence by tricking the parents into falsely agreeing that the payments were bribes.

Meanwhile, the agents in the case denied pressuring Singer to lie and said they had been instructing him to be more explicit with new clients who had not already gone through with the bribery scheme.

In addition, despite what Singer wrote in his notes, the prosecution argued that he had not yet fully taken responsibility for his crimes when he wrote what he did. It also argued that, regardless of whether the money was called a “donation” or a “bribe,” a crime still took place.

“Just because neither Singer nor the defendants actually used the word ‘bribe’ to describe the purported donations doesn’t mean that they were legitimate,” Frank wrote. “They were bribes, regardless of what Singer and the defendants called them, because, as the defendants knew, the corrupt insiders were soliciting the money in exchange for recruiting unqualified students, in violation of their duty of honest services to their employer.”

Gorton wrote Friday that prosecutors' failure to turn over Singer's notes to the defense earlier was “irresponsible and misguided,” but not “willful.” Gorton said agents were trying to get Singer to corroborate, not fabricate, evidence. And if defense attorneys disagree, they'll have “ample opportunity” to cross examine Singer at trial, the judge said.

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"Whether Singer’s calls in October, 2018, were consistent with his prior representations of his 'program' and whether they demonstrate that defendants believed their payments to be legitimate donations rather than bribes is an issue squarely for the jury after a trial on the merits," he wrote.

Singer pleaded guilty and is expected to be a crucial witness at the trials. He began cooperating with investigators in September 2018 and secretly recorded his phone calls with parents to build the case against them.

Loughlin and Giannulli previously pleaded not guilty to expanded charges of bribery brought against them in October 2019 along with nine other parents swept up in the scandal.

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The charge of conspiracy to commit federal program bribery carries a maximum sentence of up to five years in prison and a fine of up to $250,000. The couple was previously hit with charges of money laundering and conspiracy that could land them behind bars for 40 years if convicted on all of them.

Nearly two dozen parents have already pleaded guilty in the case, including former “Desperate Housewives” star Felicity Huffman. She served almost two weeks in prison after she admitted to paying $15,000 to have someone correct her daughter’s entrance exam answers.

Fox News' Tyler McCarthy and The Associated Press contributed to this report