- Actress Felicity Huffman was given a sentence of 14 days in prison for paying a college admissions consultant $15,000 to doctor her daughter’s SAT scores.
- Huffman will also be required to serve a year of supervised release, complete 250 hours of community service, and pay a fine of $30,000.
- Huffman is the first of the 34 parents charged in the expansive college admissions scam. Many had viewed her verdict as a test case for future sentences of others involved in the scandal.
Felicity Huffman Sentenced
Actress Felicity Huffman was sentenced to 14 days in prison on Friday for her role in the infamous college admissions scandal Operation Varsity Blues, making her the first of nearly three dozen parents charged in the scheme.
Huffman had previously pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to commit mail fraud and honest services mail fraud in May after she admitted she had paid admissions consultant Rick Singer $15,000 to have her oldest daughter’s SAT answers corrected by a proctor.
In addition to the brief prison time, the actress’s sentence also includes a year of supervised release, 250 hours of community service, and the payment of a $30,000 fine.
Prosecutors had asked that the actress be sentenced to one month in prison, 12 years of supervised release, and pay a $20,000 fine.
Huffman’s lawyers, however, have said that she should not serve any prison time and had asked for one year of probation, 250 hours of community service, and a $20,000 fine.
Experts have argued that Huffman’s guilty plea and her numerous apologies encouraged Judge Indira Talwani, who oversaw her case, to lighten her sentence for the conspiracy charge, which carries a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison.
During the sentencing Friday, Huffman choked up while reading a prepared statement in court before her sentence was handed down.
“I am deeply ashamed of what I have done,” Huffman said to the judge. “At the end of the day I had a choice to make. I could have said ‘no.’”
Announcing her decision, Talwani said she believes Huffman’s punishment is “the right sentence here.”
“I think you take your sentence and you move forward,” she told the actress. “You can rebuild your life after this. You’ve paid your dues.”
Huffman also responded to the sentence in a statement.
“I broke the law,” she wrote. “I have admitted that and I pleaded guilty to this crime. There are no excuses or justifications for my actions. Period.”
“I would like to apologize again to my daughter, my husband, my family and the educational community for my actions,” she continued. “And I especially want to apologize to the students who work hard every day to get into college, and to their parents who make tremendous sacrifices supporting their children.”
Test Case for Operation Varsity Blues
Many have viewed Huffman’s sentencing as a test case for the other parents who have been indicted in the sweeping Operation Varsity Blues scandal.
Prosecutors have filed charged against 51 parents, coaches, and employees of Singer.
So far 15 of the 34 parents who have been charged have pleaded guilty. The majority of those parents are scheduled to be sentenced in the next few weeks, and most of their cases are set to be overseen by Judge Talwani.
As a result, Talwani’s response to Huffman’s case could be very telling for the other parents.
However, at the same time, prosecutors in Huffman’s trial asked for a comparatively lighter sentence, citing the fact that she paid less than many other parents and also because she did not include her younger daughter in the admissions fraud.
By contrast, actress Lori Loughlin and her designer husband Mossimo Giannulli have been accused of paying Singer $500,000 to get both of their daughters into the University of Southern California by falsely claiming they were athletes on the university’s crew team.
Both Loughlin and Giannulli plead not guilty in April and were hit with new charges. They now both face up to 40 years in prison.
For some of the other parents who have already pleaded guilty, prosecutors are asking for as much as 15 months of prison time.
Huffman’s sentence is also being seen as a litmus test for how wealthy white families are treated in the justice system compared to lower-income, nonwhite individuals convicted of similar crimes.
Like in Huffman’s case, prosecutors have argued that the parents should serve some time in prison to show that wealthy people will be held accountable for cheating the college admissions system.
In court papers, prosecutors referenced a case where public school teachers, principals, and other administrators in Atlanta were convicted of conspiring to cheat on state tests. All of the defendants were black, and some were sentenced to up three years in prison.
In another case, prosecutors cited, a black mother in Ohio named Kelley Williams-Bolar was sentenced to five years of prison for using her father’s address so her children could go to a suburban school district near where she lived.
Her sentence was later suspended to just 10 days in jail, three years of probation, and community service.
The prosecutors used the cases to argue that light sentences for parents involved in the Operation Varsity Blues scandal would prompt accusations of preferential treatment and racial bias.
“Frequently, those cases involved defendants who are members of racial and ethnic minorities and/or from disadvantaged socioeconomic backgrounds,” prosecutors wrote. “A different result in this case, particularly given the history and characteristics of these defendants, would not be appropriate.”
However, some of the lawyers in both the cases cited by the prosecutors told The New York Times that their cases should not be used to argue that Huffman should serve prison time.
David Singleton, the executive director of the Ohio Justice and Policy Center, who represented Ms. Williams-Bolar in successfully seeking clemency in her case, said that there were indeed disparities in the justice system.
“Our educators in our cheating scandal in Atlanta were way over-prosecuted and way over-punished,” said Bob Rubin, who represented a former principal involved in the Atlanta case. “My answer is not to give Felicity Huffman more, but to give our clients less.”
“When you are rich — and particularly if you’re rich and white in this country — there’s a different justice system,” said David Singleton, who represented Williams-Bolar. “Sending Felicity Huffman to jail is not going to solve that problem.”
See what others are saying: (The New York Times) (CNN) (NBC News)
Chris Pratt Denies Association With Hillsong Church: “I’ve Never Actually Been”
The church has been accused of having anti-LGBTQ ties, something Pratt has taken a hit for.
Pratt Addresses Hillsong Controversy
After several years of facing criticism for his alleged ties to the controversial Hillsong Church, actor Chris Pratt said he has “never actually been” to the church and is “not a religious person.”
The Hillsong Church has been condemned for being anti-LGBTQ. The issue received increased attention in 2019 when actor Elliot Page tweeted, “If you are a famous actor and you belong to an organization that hates a certain group of people, don’t be surprised if someone simply wonders why it’s not addressed.”
“Being anti LGBTQ is wrong, there aren’t two sides,” he continued.
At the time, Pratt responded to the allegations by saying that “nothing could be further from the truth” and that he believes “everyone is entitled to love who they want.” He doubled down on his denial in a profile published Tuesday in Men’s Health.
“I never went to Hillsong. I’ve never actually been to Hillsong,” he told the outlet. “I don’t know anyone from that church.”
Instead, Pratt said he attends Zoe Church in Los Angeles, though not exclusively. According to Men’s Health, Zoe Church is not without its issues. The church was founded by a pastor who produced a film that equated “sexual brokeness” to “same-sex attraction.” Other outlets have also described it as a Hillsong affiliate.
Pratt faced his biggest wave of backlash in 2020 when Internet memes declared him the “worst” Chris compared to other actors with the same first name, including Chris Evans, Chris Hemsworth, and Chris Pine. A slew of celebrities quickly came to Pratt’s defense, arguing the criticism was unjustifiably mean. Their speedy responses only heightened the online conversation and many of the celebrities who spoke out were eventually mocked for doing so.
Pratt Says He is Not Religious
As for why the Internet has become increasingly anti-Pratt, his alleged association to Hillsong was a major factor. Some also speculated he was a supporter of Donald Trump as he did not join his “Avengers” co-stars for a Joe Biden fundraiser, though Pratt is not usually politically outspoken in either direction.
Pratt believes the backlash against him started when he gave a speech at the MTV Movie Awards in 2018 where he said, “God is real. God loves you. God wants the best for you.” He understands why those remarks may have rubbed people the wrong way.
“Maybe it was hubris. For me to stand up on the stage and say the things that I said, I’m not sure I touched anybody,” he told Men’s Health. “Religion has been oppressive as fuck for a long time. I didn’t know that I would kind of become the face of religion when really I’m not a religious person.”
He went on to explain that in his eyes, there is a difference between adhering to certain customs and believing in God versus using God to control and harm people and justify hatred.
“The evil that’s in the heart of every single man has glommed on to the back of religion and come along for the ride,” he said.
See what others are saying: (Men’s Health) (The AV Club) (People)
Jodie Sweetin Releases Statement After Getting Pushed By Officers at Pro-Choice Protest: “This Will Not Deter Us”
“Love everyone out there in the streets fighting for what’s right,” she wrote on Instagram.
Actress Pushed at Protest
After viral footage showed Jodie Sweetin getting pushed to the ground by officers with the Los Angeles Police Department while attending a pro-choice protest, the “Full House” actress said demonstraters “will continue fighting” for their rights.
Sweetin was attending a protest off the 101 freeway on Saturday following the Supreme Court’s decision to overturn Roe v. Wade.
Photojournalist Mike Ade, who captured the video, said the actress was “trying to lead a group of peaceful protestors away from the freeway” when officers pushed her. Sweetin was standing on a curb when she was pushed and fell down on the cement road. Ade wrote that she was “fortunately…okay.”
Ade shared a handful of other videos depicting officers using similar tactics on other protesters. As these videos started circulating online, many became outraged by the LAPD’s response to the protests.
Sweetin Addresses Incident
Following the incident, Sweetin released a statement where she said the fight against the court’s decision is not over.
“I’m extremely proud of the hundreds of people who showed up yesterday to exercise their First Amendment rights and take immediate action to peacefully protest the giant injustices that have been delivered from our Supreme Court,” Sweetin said. “Our activism will continue until our voices are heard and action is taken. This will not deter us, we will continue fighting for our rights. We are not free until ALL of us are free.”
Sweetin also shared footage of the incident and other clips of officers clashing with protesters on her Instagram story. She cheered protesters in a comment on a video of the push shared by a social justice group called The Progressivists.
“Love everyone out there in the streets fighting for what’s right,” she wrote.
According to a statement obtained by Deadline, the LAPD is looking into the matter.
“The LAPD is aware of a video clip of a woman being pushed to the ground by officers not allowing the group to enter on foot and overtake the 101 freeway,” the statement said. “The force used will be evaluated against the LAPD’s policy and procedure.”
See what others are saying: (Deadline) (Rolling Stone) (The Hollywood Reporter)
Dave Chappelle Decides Against Having Former High School’s Theater Named After Him
“The idea that my name will be turned into an instrument of someone else’s perceived oppression is untenable to me,” the comedian reportedly said.
Theater Named Announced
Comedian Dave Chappelle opted on Monday to not have the theater at his alma mater high school named after him, according to a report from The Washington Post.
The Duke Ellington School of the Arts in Washington D.C. previously planned to name its theater in honor of Chappelle, as he is a distinct alum and donor. While Chappelle formerly said such a gesture would be “the most significant honor of [his] life,” he announced during Monday’s naming ceremony that it would bear a different title.
The school’s theater will instead be called the Theater for Artistic Freedom and Expression.
A naming ceremony was initially set to take place in November, but was postponed after the comedian began facing backlash for transphobic jokes in his Netflix special “The Closer.”
Among other things, he said he was “Team TERF,” which stands for trans-exclusionary radical feminist. He also made a joke about Caitlyn Jenner and remarks comparing the genitalia of transgender women to Beyond and Impossible meat.
The jokes embroiled Chappelle in controversy, and reports claimed that some students at Duke Ellington took issue with the comments. When Chappelle ended up visiting the school amid the scandal, Politico reported that one student told the comedian, “I’m 16 and I think you’re childish, you handled it like a child.”
Chappelle Defends Controversial Special
According to The Post, Chappelle said the criticism against him “sincerely” hurt, but added that “the Ellington Family is my family.” He claimed he did not want the theater being named after him to distract students.
“The idea that my name will be turned into an instrument of someone else’s perceived oppression is untenable to me,” he said according to Josh Rogin, a columnist for the outlet.
Rogin also tweeted that Chappelle took time out of the ceremony to slam the criticisms levied against him, accusing upset students of promoting someone else’s agenda.
“These kids didn’t understand that they were instruments of oppression,” he reportedly said.
“You cannot report on an artist’s work and remove artistic nuance,” Chappelle continued while denouncing the press coverage of his Netflix special.
According to David Frum, a staff writer for The Atlantic who attended the ceremony, Chappelle suggested he was open to potentially adding his name to the theater at a later date when the community is ready.