Was Mossimo Behind Turning Down Plea Deal? Source Claims Lori Loughlin Was ‘Inclined to Take the Deal’

Amid rumor and speculation that Lori Loughlin and Mossimo Giannulli’s marriage is “on the rocks,” yet another unnamed source claims that–despite public hand-holding and the apparent intent to take a  “united” stand against federal charges–Loughlin is angry with her fashion designer husband. The purported reason? Loughlin was “inclined to take” a plea deal as fellow actress Felicity Huffman chose to do, while Giannulli feared doing so “would ruin both of their careers.”

Per Us Weekly:

“Lori regrets not doing what Felicity did,” says the insider. Another source adds, “Lori was inclined to take the deal, but Mossimo said it would ruin both of their careers.”

Prior to these quotes, the opening lines of the story (citing the unnamed “insider,” perhaps to Olivia Jade Giannulli’s dismay) said that it was Giannulli who recommended turning down a plea deal. Law&Crime has reported before on the plea deal that could have been. On paper, the federal fraud and money laundering charges are punishable by up to 40 years behind bars. While that will never happen, the certainty of a deal has been replaced with the uncertainty of a roll of the dice in court.

There have been positive developments in other “Operation Varsity Blues” cases, however, that may mean all is not lost for Loughlin and Giannulli. See here, here, and here. Mixed in with some of the optimism that they have persuasive defense arguments left to make, there have also been reports that Loughlin and Giannulli have had second thoughts about turning down a deal.

Loughlin and Giannulli are accused of creating fake rowing profiles to get their daughters Isabella Giannulli and Olivia Jade 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.”

Felicity Huffman pleaded guilty in May to conspiracy to commit mail fraud and honest services mail fraud. The plea came two months after she was arrested for her role in the college admission scandal. Huffman, who publicly apologized, admitted she paid $15,000 to a phony charity in order to facilitate her daughter’s cheating on the SATs.

Prosecutors recommended the lower end of the sentencing guidelines, which called for four months in prison and a $20,000 fine. The level of offense in the Loughlin and Giannulli’s case, however, is higher due to the $500,000 allegedly involved. Therefore, a better case to compare it to would be that of Toby MacFarlane. He admitted to paying $450,000 in bribes. In that case, the government recommended 15 months in prison, a year of supervised release, plus a fine of $95,000, restitution and forfeiture.

Some legal experts have gone on record to say they believe it is “highly likely” Loughlin and Giannulli are going to spend time behind bars over the college admissions scandal. We’ll see what a jury and a judge have to say about that.

The couple most recently appeared in court near the end of August to resolve a dispute regarding their choice of attorneys. Prosecutors argued that Latham & Watkins, the law firm representing Loughlin and Giannulli, could have conflicts of interest since it also represents USC in an unrelated matter. Prosecutors said that the school would be entitled to a victim-impact statement in a sentencing hearing, which Loughlin’s defense counsel would be obligated to look at and possibly challenge.

Loughlin’s attorney William Trach maintained all along that there was no conflict of interest.

“Our law firm is confident that it has no or reasonably foreseeable conflict of interest in this case,” Trach wrote in a May 6 letter cited by prosecutors. Because the cases were unrelated and handled by different attorneys, Loughlin, Giannulli and their attorneys argued that there was no conflict. Federal Magistrate Judge M. Page Kelley ruled on Tuesday that couple can continue using the law firm for their defense, WBZ reported. The couple also waived their right to separate attorneys, meaning that they will move forward with their united front as planned.

Prosecutors have reportedly argued that Latham & Watkins wasn’t the only potential conflict in this case, pointing out that the Donnelly, Vonroy & Gelhaar law firm that Giannulli hired represents Davina Jackson and Peter Jan Sartorio — two other parents charged in the college admissions scandal. The judge’s ruling on this other potential conflict is expected to come later.

It’s not clear when that will happen, but the judge apparently believes it is a more serious potential conflict.

[Image via Joseph Prezioso/AFP/Getty Images]

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

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