Two more attorneys have some thoughts on the legal predicament of Full House actress Lori Loughlin and her husband Mossimo Giannulli, which has been on full display ever since the massive college admissions prosecution known as “Operation Varsity Blues” rocked multiple parents. These thoughts were not positive ones.
Loughlin and Giannulli, as you are no doubt aware by now, have been hit with federal fraud and money laundering charges. The power couple is accused of creating fake rowing profiles to get their daughters Isabella Giannulli and Olivia Jade Giannulli into USC, “agree[ing] to pay bribes totaling $500,000 in exchange for having their two daughters designated as recruits to the [University of Southern California (USC)] crew team–despite the fact that they did not participate in crew.”
Loughlin and Giannulli have opted to take their chances in court rather than cutting a plea deal with the government, apparently believing that they will be “exonerated.” Mixed in with that optimism are reports that Loughlin and Giannulli have had second thoughts about turning down a deal.
One attorney analyzing the case agrees that, as things currently stand, there’s a “substantial chance” Loughlin and Giannulli get jail time; a second attorney believes that it is “highly likely” they do time behind bars.
Attorney Matthew Maddox told Personal Space that the chances Loughlin does jail time are “substantial.”
“This is a federal prosecution. What that means is that indictments are generally obtained after very lengthy and–what defendants later discover–are shockingly detailed investigations,” Maddox said. “What they then discover is that federal sentencing guidelines place them on a calculation grid, which includes multiple factors such as the monetary size of the alleged fraud. The larger that number, the farther the sentencing guidelines can push someone into a significant jail sentence.”
After turning down a deal and being hit with additional money laundering charges, the maximum went from 20 years to 40 years for Loughlin and Giannulli. It appears that Loughlin and Giannulli would rather take the chance that a jury would “understand how things happened” and find them not guilty–racking up legal fees in the process–instead of accepting a deal in the 15 months-plus range. The exact number could still be more or less than that, though. It has been reported that prosecutors were seeking at least two years in prison for Loughlin. And, as we’ve already seen in the case of former Stanford University sailing coach John Vandemoer, there is an example of a court deciding to spare a defendant prison time. It remains possible that a jury and/or a judge will view things differently from federal prosecutors.
Maddox suggested that Loughlin’s “public image” will likely not help her at trial, however.
“She may have an impression that her public image and a theory that she was not an active participant in the admissions counseling process will insulate her,” he said. “If this is her thinking, I expect that her attorneys have been trying to disabuse her of that perspective for some time now.”
A former public defender in Los Angeles County, Silva Megerditchian, also told Personal Space that she believes it is ” highly likely” Loughlin will do some time.
“I find it highly likely she will do some custody time, especially because everyone who plead thus far —the prosecutor has sought jail time in their sentencing memos to the judge,” she said.
Megerditchian also suggested that Loughlin’s public image will not help, arguing that the defendant has displayed “arrogance, entitlement, denial, and money.”
“The fact is the federal government wins 97 percent of the cases they bring forward. Maybe they know something nobody else does, maybe the media has it all wrong. But to be convinced she’s getting off scot free seems like a fantasy at best,” Megerditchian concluded. “Maybe she truly believes they did nothing wrong. But ignorance unfortunately is not a defense for these charges.”
Some have argued, however, that Loughlin’s legal strategy is not as “crazy” as it may seem.
Law&Crime founder Dan Abrams previously noted, “You can’t say ‘I didn’t know the details of the wire fraud law,’ and therefore that’s the defense,” but “you can say … ‘I didn’t know, I didn’t intend to do it, I wasn’t intending to misrepresent or to defraud, etc.’”
“Prosecutors will have to show that, in essence, they knew what they were doing, and they were doing it on purpose,” he said.
[Image via JOSEPH PREZIOSO/AFP/Getty Images]