Law&Crime founder and ABC News chief legal anchor Dan Abrams criticized federal prosecutors overseeing the ongoing college admissions scandal for slapping 11 parents–including Full House actress Lori Loughlin and her fashion designer husband Mossimo Giannulli–with a new set of bribery charges earlier this week.
During a Wednesday morning segment on Good Morning America, Abrams argued that prosecutors may be overplaying their hands by leveling harsh additional charges against the remaining defendants without allegeing an iota of new evidence to support those charges.
George Stephanopoulos got things rolling by asking: “The evidence has been out here for a long time–so why the new charges now?”
“As far as we know, there’s no new evidence in this case,” Abrams said. “And if prosecutors are frustrated by the comparatively soft sentences people are getting and as a result are throwing additional charges at the people who are remaining, that’s not really proper. There’s no way prosecutors would admit ‘Yeah, we were frustrated with the sentences, so we added more charges.'”
“They could also be pressing for a settlement,” Stephanopoulos interjected.
Abrams replied that it was obvious prosecutors are “trying to squeeze” the defendants into pleading guilty:
Of course they are. Of course they’re trying to squeeze them to plead guilty here. And there still could be deals. Just because they haven’t cut a deal yet doesn’t mean there couldn’t be a deal moving forward. But look: no one wants to defend any of these defendants. They’re some of the most despised people on the planet right now and everyone wants to treat this like it’s sort of a capital crime. The reality is: we have to look at this the way we’d look at any other case. And when you look at a case like this and say: “Hmm. Another new set of charges here with no new evidence–not that unusual to add charges later–but against this many people it just does start to feel like prosecutors are frustrated either by the sentences or the lack of guilty pleas.”
“So that’s what’s happening here?” asked Cecilia Vega. “They’re sort of looking ahead, feeling like they might be getting the outcome that they want?”
Abrams clarified by noting that the charges were technically applicable–but in violation of the law’s spirit.
“Well, they might get the outcome that they want in the end,” he said. “But this feels like overreaching to me. Look at the technical statute–this bribery statute that’s being applied now–does it check all the boxes? Over $10,000, etc.? Yes. Is it what this law was passed for? No. It does feel like a bit of a reach by prosecutors.”
There are indications, however, that the prosecutors’ harsh application of the law might be paying out dividends.
“The stress is about to break them,” an anonymous source close to Loughlin told People magazine.
“She is angry, she is sad, but most of all, she is terrified,” the source continued. “It just gets worse and worse for her. And you have to remember: nothing new has happened. They could have charged her with all of this last spring. But they waited. She feels like she is a scapegoat.”
[Image via screengrab/ABC News]