- 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)
Joe Rogan Holds Spot As Top Podcaster on Spotify in 2022
Earlier this year, some threatened to boycott the platform over Rogan and the health misinformation he shared on his show.
For the third year in a row, “The Joe Rogan Experience” was the number one podcast on Spotify, the company revealed in its yearly “Wrapped” feature on Wednesday.
“The Joe Rogan Experience” became exclusive to Spotify in 2020 after the host signed a lucrative deal with the audio streaming platform. “Call Her Daddy” by Alex Cooper, also a Spotify exclusive, followed Rogan on the charts. “Anything Goes With Emma Chamberlain,” which will become exclusive to the service next year, came in third.
Rogan’s podcast has made several headlines over the last year as the podcaster faced backlash from medical professionals and major musicians for touting COVID-19 misinformation. Niel Young asked to have his music removed from Spotify in protest of the company’s deal with Rogan, and several other artists soon followed.
Just a few days later, several clips resurfaced of Rogan using a racial slur. Many called to boycott Spotify for platforming Rogan, but his popularity did not seem to fade by the year’s end.
There are over four million podcasts available to stream on Spotify and over the last year, the platform has expanded into new markets.
It also has started launching podcasts from several high-profile figures, including Kim Kardashian’s “The System,” and Meghan Markle’s “Archetypes.” Both of those debuted mid-year and did not crack the annual top-five list.
Comedian Gives David Beckham Ultimatum: Exit Role at Qatar World Cup Or £10K in Donations Gets Shredded
“Not just the money, but also your status as a gay icon will be shredded,” Joe Lycett said in a video.
Pressure on Beckham
Comedian Joe Lycett posted a video on Sunday saying he would shred £10,000 if soccer star David Beckham does not pull out of his deal to be an ambassador for the Qatar World Cup.
Ahead of the event, which kicks off on Nov. 20, many have been raising concerns about human rights abuses in Qatar. The country criminalizes homosexuality, and it can be punishable by death.
Beckham’s deal to represent the country was reportedly worth £10 million, and many are frustrated that the athlete took such a big check from a country with known anti-LGBTQ laws. In his video, Lycett noted that Beckham has been openly supportive of his gay fans and was the first premiere footballer to do a photoshoot with a gay magazine.
In an attempt to get Beckham to bow out of his role, Lycett, who is pansexual, offered an ultimatum.
“If you end your relationship with Qatar, I’ll donate this £10,000 of my own money, that’s a grand for every million you’re reportedly getting, to charities that support queer people in football,” he stated. “However, if you do not, at midday next Sunday, I will throw this money into a shredder.”
“Not just the money, but also your status as a gay icon will be shredded.”
Beckham’s Reputation “Shredded”
Lycett said he would livestream the money shredding if that’s what the situation comes to. If Beckham does not back out of the World Cup, Lycett noted he will be forced to “commit what might be a crime,” as destroying legal tender is against the law in the U.K.
“Although even then, I reckon I’ll get off more lightly than I would if I got caught whacking off a lad in Doha,” Lycett quipped.
Lycett then linked to a website titled https://benderslikebeckham.com/, which includes a written version of his message, as well as a countdown to when he will either shred the cash or send it to a non-profit.
Lycett is not the only U.K star to raise concerns about issues in Qatar. Singer Dua Lipa shut down speculation that she would be performing at the World Cup over the weekend by saying she has no intentions to visit the country until “it has fulfilled all the human rights pledges it made when it won the right to host” the event.
Other stars, however, including BTS’s Jung Kook, are slated to take the stage.
See what others are saying: (CNN) (The Hollywood Reporter) (BBC News)
Federal Judge Dismisses Dave Portnoy’s Lawsuit Against Insider
The online personality called the decision “disappointing” but not “overly surprising.”
A federal judge in Massachusetts dismissed a defamation lawsuit Barstool Sports founder Dave Portnoy filed against Business Insider, several outlets reported on Monday.
According to a report from The Washington Post, Chief Judge F. Dennis Saylor IV decided that Portnoy did not successfully prove that the news outlet acted with “actual malice” or “reckless disregard for the truth” when it published two articles about his sexual relationships.
The first article, published in Nov. 2021, detailed stories from women who said they had “violent” and traumatizing sex with Portnoy. A second piece was published in Feb. 2022 and includes sources who said Portnoy filmed sexual encounters without consent.
Portnoy has repeatedly denied the allegations and maintained that the sexual encounters were consensual and positive. He sued Insider in February following the publication of the second article.
Per The Post, Saylor tossed the complaint because it did “not allege that Insider’s anonymous sources were fake, or that the articles misrepresented what the women told [Insider’s reporters].”
“Furthermore, plaintiff admits that Insider investigated its first article for months, requested an interview with him, sought his comment before publication, included his denials, and hyperlinked to his news conference and his lawyer’s full denial letter,” the judge’s decision continued.
Saylor also noted that Insider corroborated their sources’ claims with photos, texts, medical reports, receipts, and accounts from their friends.
While Portnoy argued that these stories were an invasion of privacy as they pertained to his private sex life and the women involved were not his employees, Insider held that their claims were relevant.
“When a rich, famous, and powerful person uses their power in a way that is harmful to other people, it is newsworthy,” Nicholas Carlson, Insider’s Global Editor-in-Chief, previously wrote in an editor’s note.
Saylor largely agreed with that, saying that issues of consent and power are part of “legitimate public interest,” including in instances that arise outside “the employment context.”
An Insider spokesperson told The Post that the outlet is “pleased and gratified that the judge dismissed his complaint.”
“We knew from the start that our reporting was careful, fair, and accurate, but it’s gratifying to see that validated in court,” Julia Black, one of the reporters named in the lawsuit, tweeted in response to the news.
For his part, however, Portnoy has criticized the judge’s decision, calling it “disappointing” but not “overly surprising.”
“Every single lawyer said it was an uphill battle, every legal expert said it was an uphill battle, that it’s almost impossible for a public figure to prove defamation,” he said in a video posted to Twitter. “The laws are stacked against me.”
Portnoy said that he turned in texts and other evidence he believed would prove the sexual encounters were positive but claimed “the judge didn’t even really look at the evidence.”
He later read an excerpt from the judge’s decision that said Portnoy “can’t seek to prove actual malice by challenging statements that defendants did not publish.”
“In other words: Business Insider did not publish any of my shit, I can’t talk about it, it’s not part of the case,” Portnoy explained. “It’s inadmissible.”
He said he could appeal the decision if he wanted, but added he was not optimistic about how that would turn out for him. He floated the idea of suing the sources themselves, noting he thinks he would stand a better chance in such a case.