Lori Loughlin’s defense in the college admissions scandal has started to leak out. Loughlin is the highest profile defendant in the scandal to not settle with the government or agree to a plea deal, instead choosing to stand her ground and fight the charges leveled against her.
And now, Bloomberg reports that the actress and her husband, designer Mossimo Giannulli, will argue that they gave donations, not bribes, to the University of Southern California. The couple’s lawyer, William Trach of Latham & Watkins argued that there is “zero evidence” of bribery at a hearing in federal court in Boston on Tuesday.
Despite this, prosecutors maintain that Loughlin and her husband bribed former assistant athletics director Donna Heinel through payments to funds that she controlled and paid bribes that were funneled through a charity set up by William “Rick” Singer, the admission scandal’s mastermind, in order to get their daughters into USC.
Like Loughlin, Heinel has also pleaded not guilty. The defense will maintain that the couple was merely supporting the charity, called the Key Worldwide Foundation, which is a registered non-profit group that gave “legitimate donations” to support opportunities for underprivileged students.
The couple’s lawyer told the court: “The evidence in this case is there were checks made out to USC Athletics and to a fund at USC. Those checks were cashed by USC, and there were payments to Key Worldwide Foundation.”
Prosecutors countered on Tuesday that both spouses knew about the $500,000 scheme to bribe USC employees and implied that the evidence was stronger against Giannulli, raising questions about the soundness of a joint defense. Assistant U.S. Attorney Eric Rosen told the judge: “In this case I do think the evidence here is a bit more challenging than some of the other husband-and-wife defendants we’ve dealt with.”
Rosen alluded to a confrontation between Giannulli and a California high school guidance counselor who said he was suspicious after learning that both daughters, who weren’t rowers, had won admission to USC as recruits for the crew team. “Obviously that is going to be an important event in the government’s case,” Rosen said.
When asked if they understood the risks involved in dual representation, both Loughlin and Giannulli said that they did, and waived their rights to separate attorneys. Loughlin and Giannulli’s lawyer said it’s “a question of what it is they knew about what it is Mr. Singer may or may not have been doing with Key Worldwide Foundation and in respect to the employees at USC.”
The government has already charged 34 parents in the scandal, 15 of which have already pleaded guilty to fraud. Mastermind William “Rick” Singer has admitted to leading the ring and has pleaded guilty to racketeering charges, in addition to cooperating with the prosecution.