- As promised last month, actress Felicity Huffman has now pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to commit mail fraud and honest services mail fraud.
- Huffman admitted to paying $15,000 to have her daughters SAT scores boosted and says her daughter knew nothing of the scheme.
- The conspiracy charge carries a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison, but prosecutors are recommending a four-month prison term, a $20,000 fine, and 12 months of supervised release.
Huffman Admits Guilt
Actress Felicity Huffman pleaded guilty in a Boston courtroom on Monday for her involvement in the massive college admissions scandal dubbed Operation Varsity Blues.
The “Desperate Housewives” star pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to commit mail fraud and honest services mail fraud. Huffman had previously promised to enter a guilty plea after admitting she paid admissions consultant William Rick Singer $15,000 to have a proctor correct her oldest daughter’s answers on the SAT. Huffman allegedly considered doing the same for her younger daughter, but later decided against it.
Huffman became emotional in court as she explained to the judge that her daughter knew nothing about the scam to improve her score. Huffman also claimed that her daughter’s accommodation for more time on the test was legitimate and assured the judge that her daughter’s neuropsychologist, who had treated her daughter since she was 8-year-old, was also not involved in the cheating scheme.
“Everything else” that prosecutors accused her of doing, she said, “I did.”
“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 in a statement last month. “I am ashamed of the pain I have caused my daughter, my family, my friends, my colleagues and the educational community,” she continued.
Experts believe that Huffman is hoping her plea and apology will help her earn a lenient sentence. The conspiracy charge carries a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison. However, prosecutors are recommending a four-month prison sentence. They are also recommending a $20,000 fine and 12 months of supervised release.
Huffman’s sentencing is scheduled to take place on September 13.
Huffman is one of 50 people charged in the bribery scam involving wealthy parents, test proctors, college coaches, and more. At least 20 people, including Huffman, have now pleaded guilty or have announced that they intend to.
Another parent, Los Angeles businessman Devin Sloane, also pleaded guilty on Monday during a joint court hearing, but he is likely facing a longer sentence. According to prosecutors, Sloane paid $250,000 in bribes, disguised charitable donations, to help get his son recruited as a student-athlete on the Waterpolo team and the University of Southern California. His son was never a competitive player.
Sloane even purchased water polo gear on Amazon, including a ball and a cap, and gave it to his son to wear during a photo shoot. He later had photos doctored to make it appear as if the student was in the water during a game.
Guidance counselors became suspicious, so arrangements were then made to have someone at USC tell the director of admissions that the student played in summer water polo tournaments abroad, in places like Greece, Serbia, and Portugal.
Prosecutors are recommending a year in prison and $75,000 in fines for Sloane.
The person making the corrections on Huffman’s daughter’s test has also pleaded guilty.
Meanwhile, others involved in the corruption scandal have chosen to plead not guilty, including the exam proctor who allegedly allowed Huffman’s test score scam to happen.
The parents at the forefront of the scandal, actress Lori Loughlin and her husband fashion designer Mossimo Giannulli, are also fighting the charges. The parents are accused of paying $500,000 in bribes to get their daughters, 19-year-old Olivia and 20-year-old Bella, admitted to the University of Southern California, as recruits for the crew team, even though neither of them participated in the sport.
After declining to enter a guilty plea, Loughlin and Giannuli were hit with a second count of conspiracy to commit money laundering. They could face up to 40 years in prison—a maximum of 20 years for each of the charges.
See what others are saying (NPR) (Fox News) (New York Times)
AMC Will Set Movie Ticket Prices Based on Seat Locations
The decision has faced backlash, but AMC executives claim it will ensure that “guests have more control over their experience.”
Sightline by AMC
AMC, the largest movie theater chain in the U.S., is changing its price metric by charging more at admission for preferred seats and offering value seats at a lower cost.
The new pricing experiment is called Sightline by AMC, and it offers three different tiers. Value Sightline includes the seats right next to the screen, while Preferred Sightline includes seats that are centered and in the middle of the theater. The average seats, or Standard Sightline, will remain at the normal price of admission.
“While every seat at AMC delivers an amazing moviegoing experience, we know there are some moviegoers who prioritize their specific seat and others who prioritize value moviegoing,” AMC’s executive vice president and CMO Eliot Hamlisch said to Variety. “Sightline at AMC accommodates both sentiments to help ensure that our guests have more control over their experience, so that every trip to an AMC is a great one.”
However, Sightline will not apply to AMC’s Discount Tuesday deal — every ticket will still be offered at $5 regardless of seat location. Sightline will also only apply to evening shows after 4:00 p.m.
The movie theater giant has faced backlash for this new price structure, including from people in the entertainment industry.
“This is absurdly stupid & only creates unnecessary classism,” actor and director Seth Green wrote on Twitter. “AMCTheatres clearly focused on squeezing new profits anywhere possible. Trying to get people back into theaters? Don’t penalize folks with less to spend.”
Actor Elijah Wood also condemned the change for disproportionately impacting lower-income families.
“The movie theater is and always has been a sacred democratic space for all and this new initiative by AMCTheatres would essentially penalize people for lower income and reward for higher income,” Wood wrote.
This is not the first time AMC has experimented with its pricing. During the opening weekend of “The Batman” last year, AMC announced it would be charging $1 to $2 more for it compared to other movies playing at the same time. Back in 2019, the chain tested a different pricing initiative, charging more for movies “of the highest appeal” and making less in-demand movies cheaper.
Neo-Nazi Leader Charged in Plot to “Destroy Baltimore” By Attacking Substations — a Growing Trend
Experts say that far-right extremist attacks on energy infrastructure have grown significantly in the last few years.
Conspiracy to Attack Maryland Energy Systems
A neo-Nazi leader who was recently released from prison and a woman he met while incarcerated were arrested on Monday for plotting to “completely destroy” the power grid in Baltimore, Maryland.
Special Agent in Charge Thomas J. Sobocinski of the FBI field office in Baltimore said in a press conference that the two had “conspired to inflict maximum harm on the power grid,” by targeting five electrical substations that serve 1.2 million people in central Maryland.
He noted that the pair ”were not just talking, but taking steps to fulfill their threats and further their extremist goals.”
Their plot, however, was foiled by law enforcement before they could put it into action, in large part because both extensively detailed their plans to an FBI informant on encrypted messaging apps.
Sobocinski described their extremist views as “racially or ethnically motivated.”
The neo-Nazi leader is the founder of a small but dangerous group called the Atomwaffen Division, which uses civil disorder and violence because they believe it will help spark a race war in the U.S. — a white supremacist theory known as “accelerationism.”
Authorities say that he previously plotted with his roommates — also members of the group — to attack energy facilities in Florida. Before he could, he was arrested and put in federal prison for possessing bomb-making materials.
During that time, he began to communicate with the woman, who was serving time in a separate facility in Maryland after being charged with robbing multiple convenience stores with a machete.
Authorities point to several pieces of evidence that indicate she too had been radicalized, including a statement she wrote that prosecutors say resembles a manifesto, in which she references Hitler, the Unabomber, and a far-right Norwegian terrorist and stated: “I would sacrifice **everything** for my people.”
The woman’s mother also told The Washington Post that she had become involved with neo-Nazi beliefs in prison, which she has been in and out of since 2006.
A Growing Trend
Federal law enforcement officials have said there is “no indication” the planned attack in Baltimore was connected to other attacks. The plot, however, comes on the heels of similar events.
In early December, there were a series of attacks on substations in North Carolina that were very reminiscent of what the pair in Maryland were plotting. In fact, prosecutors even said the neo-Nazi leader sent the FBI informant a video about that attack.
While authorities have provided little information on a suspect or motive in North Carolina, it has been reported that they have zeroed in on two possibilities that both center around far-right extremism.
Around the same time in December, there were also a series of attacks on the grid in the Pacific Northwest.
Researchers and homeland security officials have said that far-right extremists have been increasingly targeting energy infrastructure while operating under the neo-Nazi theory of accelerationism.
According to a study by the program on extremism at George Washington University released in September, white supremacist attempts to target energy systems “dramatically increased in frequency” from 2016 to 2022.
“Since 2019, white supremacist attacks plots against critical infrastructure systems have distinctly increased,” the study found.
Brian Harrell, a former Homeland Security official who oversaw infrastructure protection at the department, told The Post that he saw a noticeable surge in violent extremists talking about carrying out these attacks online.
“When digging into the ‘dark web,’ social media portals and chat rooms, we quickly see that targeting and destroying energy infrastructure is a tactic many extremist groups fantasize about,” he said.
Editor’s Note: At Rogue Rocket, we make it a point to not include the names and pictures of mass murders, suspected mass murderers, or those accused of committing violent crimes who may have been seeking attention or infamy. Therefore, we will not be linking to other sources, as they may contain these details.
College Board Changes AP African American Studies After Backlash From DeSantis Amid Education Culture War
As requested by DeSantis, the College Board removed lessons on contemporary topics including Black Lives Matter, queer studies, and reparations.
College Board Rolls Out Curriculum
The College Board, which oversees Advanced Placement high school courses, announced an official curriculum framework for its new, landmark Advanced Placement African American studies on Wednesday.
The announcement, made on the first day of Black History Month, has faced scrutiny for seeming to scale back a number of relevant subjects that Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) and other state education officials had criticized.
In January, DeSantis said that the new course would be banned in Florida unless changes were made, arguing that a draft version of the course was “woke.”
Education officials claimed that the class, which had been in the making for nearly a decade, violated a recent state law dubbed the Stop WOKE Act. The legislation regulates public school instruction on race by banning critical race theory and any education that describes some groups as oppressed and others as privileged based on race or sex.
Democrats denounced DeSantis’ action as a political stunt and urged the College Board to maintain its principles.
According to reports, many historical topics like slavery largely remain intact from the previous draft. However, important contemporary issues like Black Lives Matter, affirmative action, queer studies, reparations, and intersectionality — all of which Florida leaders objected to — were removed from curriculum requirements and are no longer part of the AP exam.
Instead, those areas of study have been downgraded to be part of a list of options students can pursue for a mandatory research project. The College Board also added a new research project idea to that list that will certainly please the right: “Black conservatism.”
It has additionally been reported that the organization pulled names of multiple Black authors the state education officials had flagged as problematic, including many famous and pioneering Black scholars who wrote about critical race theory, the queer experience, and Black feminism.
The College Board defended itself against criticism in a press release announcing the changes, claiming that the process of developing the framework “has operated independently from political pressure.”
DeSantis’ Ongoing Culture War
DeSantis’ attempts to influence the national curriculum of an AP course are just his latest in a much broader effort to control what is and is not taught in public schools.
Just one day before the College Board announced the revised course, the governor outlined what The New York Times described as “his most aggressive swing yet at the education establishment.”
Specifically, he proposed a massive overhaul to higher education in the state that would defund and eliminate diversity and equity programs, mandate courses on Western civilization, and reduce tenure protections that are essential to ensure professors have freedom of expression.
Furthermore, the effects of another law DeSantis signed last year are now just beginning to materialize. The policy, which went into effect this July, requires every school book to be age-appropriate, “free of pornography,” and “suited to student needs.”
To follow those guidelines, school books have to be approved by a certified media specialist who has undergone specific training.
Notably, the law also states that teachers can be charged with third-degree felonies if they “knowingly or unknowingly” give students access to a book that the specialists say is harmful — meaning that they could face up to five years in prison and a $5,000 fine.
Last month, the state education department clarified that the rule does not just apply to school libraries, but also to any books a teacher keeps in their classroom too.
Multiple outlets reported this week that records they obtained show at least two school districts have now directed teachers to either remove their books or hide them until review to avoid the possibility of going to jail.