"Free Lori Loughlin," wrote Wall Street Journal editorial board member Bill McGurn in an opinion piece published Monday, and in the latest episode of Fox Nation's "Deep Dive," McGurn and a panel of experts hashed out that argument.
The Justice Department announced last month that the couple had been indicted on federal charges of bribing officials at an organization that receives at least $10,000 in federal funding. In this case, they're accused of bribing officials at the University of Southern California to get their children admitted to the school.
"I just don't see how two California residents with children, who are California residents paying another Californian to bribe officials at a private California university, is a crime against the federal government," McGurn argued. "This federal programs bribery charge... I don't think that's what the statute was written for."
"Federal dollars are at stake," replied attorney and political strategist Robert Patillo."These people are trying to benefit from the federal money that's going to be going to USC."
McGurn also took issue with the fact that Loughlin faces a potential sentence of 45 years in prison.
Fox Business Network anchor Liz Claman agreed with McGurn that the maximum sentence seems excessive, but Claman, whose daughter is currently applying for college, said that Loughlin should be locked up.
"In my opinion, she absolutely must serve time," she said. "If you don't have her spend time in prison as a deterrent for others who'd pull off this behavior, you are saying 'It is OK to participate in bribery, fraud, falsifying documents' ... These are breaking law issues that people serve time for."
"I'm not so sure that for a first-time nonviolent offender not to serve jail time means there's no other punishments or that you're incentivizing people to do this," questioned McGurn.
"So was Bernie Madoff," said Claman, suggesting to the panel that first-time nonviolent offenders can be deserving of punishment.
"I think the reason this got so much attention compared to other cases involving college admission is this is exactly what we all thought happened," concluded Patillo. "I'm from rural Georgia, grew up in a double-wide trailer, and when you're putting your application in there with all the extracurricular activities, reading at old-folks homes, participating in sports, marching band, great scores on the S.A.T., great GPA and to know that Aunt Becky from 'Full House' can pay somebody money to pretend ... both daughters are on the crew team. That's how we all thought the system worked."
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Fox News' Tyler McCarthy contributed to this report.