Dan Abrams: Judge in Lori Loughlin Case Is ‘Most Critical’ Factor, ‘We Now Know Exactly What He’s Thinking’

ABC chief legal analyst and Law&Crime founder Dan Abrams said Tuesday morning on Good Morning America that if Full House actress Lori Loughlin goes to trial and is convicted on the charges she’s facing she could be looking at a two or three years in prison. The key factor to keep an eye on, Abrams said, is the judge presiding over Loughlin’s case.

Loughlin and her husband Mossimo Giannulli, recently hit with an additional federal programs bribery charge that they are scheduled to be arraigned for on Wednesday, have not yet made any indication that they will enter a guilty plea. Some legal commentators believe that it is too late for Loughlin and Giannulli to enter a plea that does not include the new bribery charge.

Toby MacFarlane, another defendant in the college admissions scandal, recently received the longest sentence of any parent — and the facts of his case were very similar to those in the Loughlin-Giannulli case. MacFarlane’s sentence was six months, and that was after entering a guilty plea. As Abrams noted, Judge Nathaniel Gorton presided over MacFarlane’s case, and Gorton is “known as one of the toughest sentencing judges in the district.” The docket says that Gorton was assigned the cases of 15 defendants who have not pleaded guilty, including Loughlin and Giannulli. (Gorton referred all pretrial proceedings to Magistrate Judge M. Page Kelley.)

“The most critical thing is the judge, right, because if you’ve got this particular judge, we now know exactly what he’s thinking on this and the facts are very similar. It’s almost the same amount of money, it’s two kids, it’s faking the profiles, et cetera,” Abrams said. “Now, this was a guilty plea. so, remember, as of right now she hasn’t even pled guilty so this was someone who accepted responsibility for it getting six months.”

“You’ve got to believe then that if she were to take it to trial with the additional charge that’s been thrown on her, that if she was convicted she’d be talking now about a few years behind bars,” he continued. “If she takes this to trial with the additional charge, I wouldn’t be surprised if she got two, you know, two years, let’s say, two to three years if she was convicted of all the crimes that she’s charged with.”

Gorton called MacFarlane a “thief” at his sentencing.

“Higher education in this country aspires to be a meritocracy,” Gorton said. “Those who work the hardest or make the best grades rightfully get accepted into the best schools. You had the audacity and the self-aggrandizing impudence to use your wealth to cheat and lie your way around the rules that apply to everyone else.”

Gorton is, indeed, considered to be one of the tougher judges when it comes to sentencing in the District of Massachusetts--and defense attorneys for Varsity Blues clients have accused prosecutors of “judge-shopping” by steering cases to Gorton. Gorton has already shown that his views on these cases differ from another judge who has handed out sentences.

While Abrams did say that it is not too late for Loughlin and Giannulli to enter a guilty plea, the punishment could be a couple of months longer than MacFarlane’s if they do.

“She could still enter a plea. Now, would she get the six months, probably not because she’s got an additional charge and didn’t accept responsibility immediately. they would definitely throw some additional months — wouldn’t be years — months on to her sentence,” he continued. “She could still enter a plea and her husband, of course, you’re talking about both of them. he may be arguably more culpable than her. You’re talking about the likelihood of something in this range with a few months added onto it.”

The defendants face 12 criminal counts, including: conspiracy to commit mail and wire fraud and honest services mail and wire fraud; conspiracy to commit federal programs bribery; money laundering conspiracy; wire fraud and honest services wire fraud; aiding and abetting; federal programs bribery; aiding and abetting.

[Image via GMA screeengrab]

Matt Naham is managing editor of Law&Crime. He formerly worked as news editor and weekend editor at Rare.

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