- 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)
Netflix Launches “Fast Laughs,” a TikTok-Like Feed of Funny Clips
- Netflix has created a TikTok-style feature it calls “Fast Laughs,” which is currently only available on its iOS mobile app in select countries.
- Executives described it as a “new full-screen feed of funny clips from a wide variety of Netflix titles, ranging from films and series to our deep bench of stand-up specials.”
- The clips can be shared on social media, and if users stumble across something they want to see more of, they can save that title to watch later or play it immediately.
Netflix Announces “Fast Laughs”
Netflix is now the latest platform to introduce its own TikTok-like feature.
On Thursday, the company announced “Fast Laughs,” which is currently only available on its iOS mobile app in select countries.
It essentially looks like TikTok, but Patrick Flemming, director of product innovation at Netflix, told The Verge it is a “new full-screen feed of funny clips from a wide variety of Netflix titles, ranging from films and series to our deep bench of stand-up specials.”
In its announcement blog post, Netflix said, “You access the feed through your bottom navigation menu by clicking on the Fast Laughs tab. Clips will start playing – when one ends another begins, to keep the laughs coming.“
If a user stumbles across a scene they want to see more of, they can save that title to watch later or play it immediately if they’d like. They can also share the clips individually on Whatsapp, Instagram, Snapchat, and Twitter.
Could It Really Rival TikTok?
Adding this TikTok-style feature may seem surprising since Netflix is a streaming service rather than a social media platform.
However, Netflix’s last few earnings reports have actually referenced TikTok as a major competitor. It’s not because they make the same style of content but instead because people are spending more time on TikTok – which for some means less time on Netflix.
While “Fast Laughs” might not compete with TikTok the way some other copycats hope to, some believe it’s an interesting way to highlight the huge library of content the site offers.
See what others are saying: (The Verge) (Tech Crunch) (USA Today)
Court Sides With Sofia Vergara, Says Ex Cannot Use Embryos Without Permission
- A Los Angeles court sided with actress Sofia Vergara on Tuesday, ruling that her ex-fiance Nick Loeb cannot use their embryos without her consent.
- The court cited a document the former couple had signed agreeing that both parties needed to approve the use of the embryos, arguing that the document could not be void.
- In a response, Loeb appeared to plug his new movie, saying the judge was “clearly influenced by Hollywood, which is a pattern I expose in my upcoming film Roe v. Wade.”
- Loeb had been trying to obtain custody of the embryos for many years and even argued in a Louisiana court that they should be treated as humans with rights, though the case was dismissed.
Court Sides With Sofia Vergara
Los Angeles County Superior Court sided with actress Sofia Vergara Tuesday, ruling that her ex-fiance could not use their embryos without her permission.
Vergara has been involved in a court battle with her ex, Nick Loeb, for several years. The two split in 2014 and had reportedly undergone in vitro fertilization within a year before their break up.
Loeb had been fighting to use those embryos on his own via a surrogate. According to TMZ, he at one point tried to take custody of them through a trust and named the embryos in a lawsuit. He also argued in a Louisiana court that the embryos should be recognized as humans with rights. The court dismissed that case in January and said Loeb was “forum shopping” for a court that might agree with his argument. At the time, his team said he would appeal their decision.
People Magazine obtained court documents from the Los Angeles court’s ruling, which granted Vergara’s request for a permanent injunction preventing Loeb from using the embryos “to create a child without the explicit written permission of the other person.”
Loeb Responds to Ruling
The court cited a document the former couple both signed at a fertility clinic, agreeing that both parties had to approve of any use of the embryos. Loeb tried to argue that he signed it under “duress” but the court still said that their agreement was not voidable based on that defense.
Loeb also tried to argue that he and the Modern Family actress had an “oral agreement” that would allow him to use the embryos on his own terms, but court said there was no “material fact” to support this.
According to People, Loeb issued a statement that plugged his new movie after the ruling. He said the judge “was clearly influenced by Hollywood, which is a pattern I expose in my upcoming film Roe v. Wade.”
“It’s sad that Sofia, a devout Catholic, would intentionally create babies just to kill them,” he continued.
Vergara’s team has not yet issued a statement on the case.
See what others are saying: (TMZ) (People) (Entertainment Tonight)
Chris D’Elia Accused of Soliciting Child Pornography in New Lawsuit
- Comedian Chris D’Elia was sued in California on Tuesday for sexual exploitation and soliciting nude photos from a minor.
- The lawsuit alleges that D’Elia “constructed a manipulative, controlling, and abusive dynamic” in order to get dozens of nude photos from a girl he knew was 17 at the time.
- It also says he invited the minor to his hotel room before one of his shows, where she performed sexual acts at his request.
- D’Elia’s spokesperson denied the accusations, which come just two weeks after D’Elia addressed months-old claims that he had sexually harassed underage women. He claimed sex “controlled” his life and admitted to having “a problem” but maintained all his relationships had been consensual and legal.
Chris D’Elia Accused of Soliciting Child Pornography
A federal lawsuit filed in the Central District of California on Tuesday accuses comedian Chris D’Elia of sexual exploitation and soliciting nude photos from a minor.
The allegations stem from 2014 when Jane Doe, now 24, was just 17-years-old. The lawsuit says D’Elia, who would have been 34 at the time, “constructed a manipulative, controlling, and abusive dynamic” in order to solicit the photos and pressure Doe into sexual encounters.
According to Doe, their interactions began in September of that year when she contacted him on Instagram, thinking he would never reply. D’Elia, however, allegedly responded to her message right away and asked her to come to one of his shows. When she agreed to see him perform at Foxwoods Resort Casino in Connecticut, she says they exchanged information on Snapchat.
Once the two started communicating on Snapchat, the lawsuit claims that the messages D’Elia sent “became sexual very quickly.” He allegedly started to ask for nude photos of her, and if she did not reply, he would persist. While she tried to avoid sending the photos, the lawsuit claims he was “aggressive.” She eventually sent him 5-10 explicit photos before she met him.
According to the lawsuit, when D’Elia came to perform in Connecticut in November, he invited Doe to his room before the show. Because she was nervous about the situation, Doe brought a friend with her, but D’Elia allegedly demanded that the friend leave or else he would not let Doe inside.
Doe’s friend left and the lawsuit claims that D’Elia then began to request sexual favors from Doe within minutes of her arrival. It alleges that the two had sex while D’Elia knew her age. It even adds that during the acts, he repeatedly asked her to tell him she was 17 and still in high school, with him allegedly saying that this was “hot.”
Doe says that he invited her back to his hotel after the show and they had sex again. After this, she says she left feeling “disgusting and defeated.” The lawsuit says this was her first sexual encounter of any kind and she had not even kissed anyone prior to meeting him, leaving her unsure what to think or do in the situation.
Over the following months, the lawsuit claims that D’Elia would limit his communication with Doe as a tactic to pry more photos out of her. It says he would demand she send explicit photos or he would unfollow her on social media until she compiled. The lawsuit says that over the course of six to seven months, she sent him over 100 explicit photos and videos, roughly half of which were taken while she was a minor.
The lawsuit says Doe “suffered significant emotional, physical, and psychological harm as a direct result of Defendant D’Elia’s predatory conduct.”
D’Elia Says He “Has A Problem”
These allegations come nearly nine months after several women accused him of sexual harassment and predatory behavior. Many said they were underage at the time he harassed them.
After months of silence, D’Elia recently addressed those allegations in a 10-minute video on February 19. He apologized and said he had been seeking help.
“I mean sex, it controlled my life,” he said. “It was the focus, my focus, all the time. And I had a problem. I do have a problem.”
However, he denied ever breaking the law in his sexual encounters.
“I stand by the fact that all my relationships have been consensual and legal,” he said.
A spokesperson for the comedian told the Los Angeles Times that the accusations in the lawsuit are false.
“Chris denies these allegations and will vigorously defend against them in court,” they said.
Jane Doe is seeking unspecified damages.