Not long after reporting indicated that Lori Loughlin, Mossimo Giannulli, and their daughters Olivia Jade Giannulli and Isabella Giannulli were getting their acts together, a source “familiar with case” saw fit to tell PEOPLE that they realize it looks bad, but they didn’t really consider the consequences of their actions because they were ignorant of the law.
“The bottom line is that they just didn’t realize that what they were doing was illegal,” the source said.
It’s an odd defense, to be sure, and it comes at a time when Loughlin and Giannulli’s legal predicament has been complicated by a cooperating witness.
As Law&Crime reported on Tuesday, former USC assistant soccer coach Laura Janke decided to plead guilty and agreed to cooperate with the government. This is a serious problem for Loughlin et al., because Janke was involved in creating fake crew profiles that included pictures of Olivia Jade and her sister Isabella on rowing machines. They were accused from the start of creating the fake profiles to get their daughters 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.”
After they “neglected” to lock in a plea deal with prosecutors, the couple was slapped with a superseding indictment that included money laundering charges, ratcheting up their legal exposure. Olivia Jade also reportedly received a target letter from the government.
The PEOPLE source painted a picture of parents who just wanted to “make sure that their daughters got into a good school.” The source claimed that it looks bad “on paper,” but they aren’t the “criminal masterminds” the government has portrayed them as.
“You read the complaint and they look like criminal masterminds,” the unidentified person said. “But they really didn’t know the legalities of what was going on. They’re not lawyers and they’re not experts. They were parents who simply wanted to make sure that their daughters got into a good school.”
The source also said that they were shocked doing whatever they felt like could be construed as law-breaking.
“Calling in favors, donating money to the alumni association, hiring consultants. Those are all things that parents do,” the person said. “And so they gave money to this consultant, not entirely knowing everything that was going to be done. When it all fell apart, nobody was as surprised as they were that they were in trouble.”
“She never intended to break any laws, and if she did, it was inadvertent,” the person added. At this point, it appears the only thing Loughlin and Giannulli are willing to admit is that they are naive. They also plan to address the charges with “nuance” in the hopes that this will “put their alleged actions into context.”
“I get how it looks on paper […] And they’ve been embarrassed and horrified to see what people are saying about them,” the source concluded. “Although they dispute certain parts of the complaint, they acknowledge that they were naive about what the laws were in this case.”
[Image via Joseph Prezioso/AFP/Getty Images]