Felicity Huffman reflects on college admissions scandal: 'I had to break the law' for 'my daughter's future'

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Felicity Huffman is speaking out about the college admissions scandal, more than four years after she served time in prison for conspiracy to commit mail fraud and honest services mail fraud.

“It felt like I had to give my daughter a chance at a future,” Huffman explained to Los Angeles news station KABC-TV in her first interview about the situation, as she said she was ready to address the ordeal head on. “And so it was sort of like my daughter’s future, which meant I had to break the law.”

In 2019, the Desperate Housewives alum pleaded guilty to paying admissions consultant Rick Singer $15,000 to have a test proctor boost her daughter Sophia’s SAT score. Huffman was among the first defendants to plead guilty and take responsibility for her crimes; Lori Loughlin, who pleaded guilty a year later, got a harsher sentence. Huffman was sentenced to 14 days in prison, compared to Loughlin, who was sentenced to two months behind bars, a $30,000 fine, one year of supervised release and 250 hours of community service.

“People assume that I went into this looking for a way to cheat the system and making proverbial criminal deals in back alleys, but that was not the case,” Huffman explained.

The actress worked with Singer, whom she trusted implicitly, to get Sophia into college. Earlier this year, Singer was sentenced to three-and-a-half years in prison and ordered to forfeit $10 million.

“He recommended programs and tutors, and he was the expert. And after a year, he started to say, ‘Your daughter is not going to get into any of the colleges that she wants to,’ and so I believed him," she recalled.

Singer “slowly started to present the criminal scheme,” and Huffman said she felt like she had no other choice but to go along.

“That was my only option to give my daughter a future, and I know hindsight is 20/20, but it felt like I would be a bad mother if I didn’t do it. So, I did it,” she admitted.

Huffman said that she had anxiety and second thoughts about the illegal game plan while driving Sophia to take the test in December 2017.

“She was going, ‘Can we get ice cream afterwards?’” Huffman remembered. “‘I’m scared about the test. What can we do that’s fun?’ And I kept thinking, turn around, just turn around. And to my undying shame, I didn’t.”

What was Operation Varsity Blues?

The federal investigation, code named Operation Varsity Blues, uncovered a scheme involving wealthy parents who bribed and fraudulently got their children into top colleges around the country. Huffman's husband, actor William H. Macy, was not arrested. Besides the Oscar-nominated actress, Loughlin and her husband, fashion designer Mossimo Giannulli, were among the most prominent names involved.

In a surprising move, Huffman pleaded guilty

The actress and 13 other defendants were the first to make a plea deal with prosecutors. She issued her first statement after the agreement and publicly apologized.

“I am pleading guilty to the charge brought against me by the United States Attorney’s Office. I am in full acceptance of my guilt, and with deep regret and shame over what I have done, I accept full responsibility for my actions and will accept the consequences that stem from those actions,” she said.

Huffman described herself as ashamed for the “pain I have caused my daughter, my family, my friends, my colleagues and the educational community. I want to apologize to them and, especially, I want to apologize to the students who work hard every day to get into college, and to their parents who make tremendous sacrifices to support their children and do so honestly.”

She served 11 days in prison

Huffman spent nearly two weeks at a low-security facility near San Francisco. She was released a few days early, but that is not unusual given that her release date fell on a weekend. The actress also paid her fine in full.

What has Huffman done since?

Since the college admissions scandal, Huffman appeared in an embedded pilot episode of The Good Lawyer, a spin-off of the medical drama The Good Doctor. It ended up not going forward at ABC. Huffman also voiced the audio drama Supreme: The Battle for Roe. She spoke to Yahoo Entertainment about doing the scripted podcast for her daughters. (She and Macy are also the parents of Georgia, 21.)

Huffman has been trying to turn the scandal into something positive, helping formerly iincarcarated women get back on their feet. The actress gave an interview this week to promote a rehabilitation organization called A New Way of Life.

“I want to use my experience and what I’ve gone through and the pain to bring something good,” she explained to KABC-TV. The nonprofit, established in 1998, “promotes healing, power, and opportunity” for the formerly incarcerated.

Huffman completed her court-ordered community service at A New Way of Life, and when her 250 hours were over, she joined the board of directors.

“When I saw what A New Way of Life was doing, which is they heal one woman at a time — and if you heal one woman, you heal her children, you heal her grandchildren and you heal the community,” she said.

What’s become of Sophia?

Huffman's 23-year-old daughter was turned down by every college she applied to amid the scandal. However, Sophia took the SAT again — legally — and got into Carnegie Mellon University. She’s currently in the drama program at the prestigious school.

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