“Full House” actress Lori Loughlin has agreed to serve two months behind bars and her fashion designer husband, Mossimo Giannulli, has agreed to serve five months as part of a deal to plead guilty to cheating the college admissions process, according to court papers filed Thursday.
Loughlin, 55, and Giannulli, 56, are scheduled to plead guilty Friday via video conference before a federal judge in Boston, who must approve the deal.
It's a stunning reversal for the famous couple who insisted for the last year they were innocent and that investigators had fabricated evidence against them. Their decision comes about two weeks after the judge rejected their bid to dismiss the case over allegations of misconduct by federal authorities.
“I think they made a calculated assessment that the risks were just too great” to bring the case to trial, said former federal prosecutor Bradley Simon.
They were scheduled to go to trial in October on charges that they paid $500,000 in bribes to get their two daughters into the University of Southern California as crew team recruits, even though neither of them played the sport. They helped create fake athletic profiles for their daughters by sending the admitted ringleader of the scheme, admissions consultant Rick Singer, photos of the teens posing on rowing machines, authorities said.
Lawyers for Loughlin and Giannulli had argued that the couple believed the payments were “legitimate donations” that would go directly to USC as a fundraising gift or support Singer’s charity. They also accused prosecutors of hiding crucial evidence that could prove the couple’s innocence because it would undermine their case.
They agreed to plead guilty to conspiracy to commit wire and mail fraud in a plea agreement filed in Boston’s federal court. Giannulli will also plead guilty to a charge of honest services wire and mail fraud, prosecutors said. Prosecutors have agreed to dismiss charges of money laundering and federal programs bribery that were added after the case was filed.
Under Loughlin's plea deal, she will also pay a $150,000 fine and perform 100 hours of community service. Giannulli has agreed to pay a $250,000 fine and perform 250 hours of community service.
Simon said the couple's lawyers may think that Loughlin and Giannulli have a chance of avoiding prison altogether and serving their punishments at home because of the coronavirus pandemic.
Attorney General William Barr has ordered the Bureau of Prisons to increase the use of home confinement and expedite the release of eligible high-risk inmates because of the virus crisis. The pandemic has already delayed the prison sentences of some parents who have pleaded guilty in the college admissions case and allowed others to go home early.
"It may have been a very clever move by the lawyers," said Simon, now with the firm Windels Marx in New York.
Prosecutors were also facing the risk of embarrassment if they lost the high-profile case, and the couple's attorneys had raised some viable lines of defense for trial, said former assistant U.S. attorney Jeff Cramer.
“For both sides, from the prosecutors' side and the defense side, I think this is a fair outcome,” said Cramer, now managing director of Berkeley Research Group consulting firm.
An attorney for the couple declined to comment.
BERKELEY, Calif. (AP) — California power regulators unexpectedly delayed a key vote Thursday on Pacific Gas & Electric's plan for getting out of bankruptcy after saying one of the utility's most outspoken critics sent an improper email attacking the company's proposal to pay wildfire victims.
California Public Utilities Commission President Marybel Batjer was irked by the need to postpone the vote because of the email sent Tuesday by Will Abrams, a survivor of a 2017 wildfire that tore through his Santa Rosa hometown.
The communication came during a mandated quiet period from May 15 through Thursday involving the vote on PG&E’s $58 billion plan for ending its nearly year-and-a-half-old bankruptcy. The vote was delayed until May 28, which coincides with a federal bankruptcy court trial on the plan.
State power regulators and a U.S. bankruptcy judge must approve PG&E's plans by June 30 for the company to qualify for coverage from California's wildfire insurance fund. PG&E should still be able to meet that deadline.
In the email, Abrams reiterated objections to PG&E's plan filed with the bankruptcy court by a committee that represents wildfire victims about their growing doubts the utility will be able to pay $13.5 billion it has pledged to a fund for the fire victims.
Batjer delayed the vote so PG&E and other parties could respond to Abrams' email. Another quiet period will start Friday and continue through May 28. Batjer warned of “serious consequences,” including potential fines, for any other violations.
Abrams told The Associated Press he didn't think he was doing anything wrong because his email didn't include any commentary that hadn't already been entered into the record. “I tried my best to follow the rules,” Abrams said.
PG&E said in a statement that it appreciated regulators' diligence. The company has consistently hailed its plan as the best way to to pay wildfire victims and position the utility to make badly needed upgrades to its electrical equipment to prevent more deadly disasters.
Abrams has repeatedly lambasted the plan as a boon for short-term investors trying to capitalize on PG&E and a ticking time bomb for the 16 million people who rely on PG&E for power in Northern California.
LOS ANGELES (AP) — The Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors will be asked to create the position of inspector general for skilled nursing facilities, which account for more than half the county’s coronavirus death toll.
Under the proposal, the inspector general would develop recommendations on strengthening oversight and improving long-term operations.
As of Thursday, 1,048 people in so-called institutional settings have died of COVID-19 and the vast majority were residents of skilled nursing facilities, according to county Public Health Director Barbara Ferrer. That toll is 52% of the 2,016 countywide COVID-19 deaths.
In addition, the total number of infections that have occurred among residents of those facilities topped 6,900. Thousands of staff members have also been infected.
The inspector general motion by Supervisors Mark Ridley-Thomas and Kathryn Barger will be up for a vote at the May 26 board meeting.
“While some skilled nursing homes may be doing their best to respond to COVID-19, we’ve seen hundreds of deaths at these facilities, tragically exposing the urgent need for stronger oversight across the industry,” Ridley-Thomas said in a statement.
Barger said the ability to assess and oversee the facilities must be greatly improved.
SAN DIEGO (AP) — More than 2,000 pounds (907 kilograms) of cocaine seized from smugglers in the eastern Pacific Ocean has been brought to San Diego.
The haul estimated to be worth about $37 million was offloaded from the Coast Guard cutter Active on Wednesday.
The Coast Guard says the cocaine was seized early this month in known drug transit zones during enhanced counter-narcotics operations in the Western Hemisphere that involved numerous U.S. agencies.
The cutter Active is homeported in Port Angeles, Washington, and routinely operates from the Straits of Juan de Fuca down to the waters off Central America.