- 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)
2020 Oscar Nominations: Diversity Criticism, Snubs, and More
- This year’s Oscar nominations were announced, sparking new celebrations and criticisms over who was placed on and off the list.
- The academy is facing backlash for nominating just one Black actress, Cynthia Erivo, and not a single female in the Best Director category.
- Movie fans were also surprised to see no nominations for Jennifer Lopez, Awkwafina, and Lupita Noyong’o, among others.
Joker Earns Most Noms
The 92nd annual Oscar nominations were announced Monday with a wave of snubs and surprises that have movie lovers talking.
Issa Rae and John Cho revealed the chosen nominees for all 24 categories, with the controversial drama “Joker” picking up 11 nods – more than any other film this year. “Once Upon a Time in Hollywood,” “The Irishman,” and “1917,” followed closely behind with 10 nominations.
All four earned spots in the coveted Best Picture category along with “Little Women,” a tale of four sisters growing up in Massachusetts during the Civil War; “Marriage Story,” which focuses on a couple working through a tough divorce and custody battle; “Parasite,” a South Korean psychological thriller and dark comedy; “Jojo Rabbit,” the story of a young German boy who counts Hitler as an imaginary friend, and “Ford v Ferrari,” based on the true story of Ford working to make a faster car than Ferrari.
The success of “Parasite” marked a particularly significant moment of recognition as it is the first South Korean film to receive nominations for Best International Film and Best Picture. The film has been widely supported by the Asian American community and earned six total Oscar nods, tying with “Jojo Rabbit,” “Little Women,” and “Marriage Story.”
Oscars Pass on J.Lo
Perhaps the biggest snub this year was against Jennifer Lopez, who was favored as a Best Supporting Actress contender for her role as Ramona in “Hustlers.” After receiving nominations at the Golden Globes and the SAG Awards, it seemed like J.Lo was a sure bet for an Oscars slot as well.
A surprise nomination in the category instead went to Kathy Bates, the sole nominee from “Richard Jewell.”
No Female Director Noms
Women were also completely absent in the Best Director category yet again, which was frustrating to many who felt “Little Women” director Greta Gerwig should have been an obvious contender
Nominees for the category include Martin Scorsese, Quentin Tarantino, Bong Joon-ho, Sam Mendes, and Todd Phillips.
Both the Golden Globes and the Directors Guild of America awards shut out women directors in favor of male nominees, leading to widespread industry backlash. The Oscars’ decision has now, of course, added to that outrage.
As Deadline points out, the lack of women in the Best Director category is a sad Oscars tradition. Only five women have ever earned a nomination in the 92-year history of the Academy Awards: Kathryn Bigelow (The Hurt Locker), Lina Wertmüller (Seven Beauties), Jane Campion (The Piano), Sofia Coppola (Lost in Translation) and Gerwig (Lady Bird).
In 2010, Bigelow became the first and only female director to win in the category.
#OscarsSoWhite and Other Notable Snubs
The academy is also once again being slammed with the hashtag “Oscars So White:” on social media after users pointed out that minorities were largely overlooked. British-Nigerian actress Cynthia Erivo, who appeared in “Harriet,” is the sole Black performer among the 20 actor nominees.
Jennifer Lopez’s snub sparked huge conversations about Latinx representation. Had she been nominated, Lopez would have been the first American Latinx actress singled out by the academy since Rosie Perez, who earned a best-supporting actress nomination in 1994 for “Fearless.”
Many were also surprised to see Kenyan-Mexican actress Lupita Noyong’o and Asian-American actress Awkwafina left out of this year’s Best Actress list, especially considering their success at precursor awards.
Nyong’o, winner of the most lead actress awards from critics organizations this awards season, received widespread praise for her two-sided role in Jordan Peele’s “Us,” meanwhile Awkwafina made history as the first woman of Asian descent to win a lead actress Golden Globe. The star acted in Lulu Wang’s dramedy “The Farewell,” which critics hailed as one of the best films of the year.
Eddie Murphy, who was just honored with the Lifetime Achievement Award at Sunday night’s Critic’s Choice Awards, also did not earn a nod for “Dolemite Is My Name,” and music star Beyonce was not included in the Best Original Song category for “Spirit” from “The Lion King.”
Since previous backlash over diversity issues, the academy has worked to double female and minority membership by inviting more film professionals from overseas. While it has made some strides, even after four years of efforts, according to the New York Times, the organization is 68% male and 84% white.
The 92nd Academy Awards will be held Sunday, Feb. 9, airing on ABC as part of the network’s long-term agreement with the Academy. For the second year in a row, the Oscars will go on without a host, as it did last year after widespread backlash over Kevin Hart’s hiring and departure.
“Ford v Ferrari” (Fox)
“The Irishman” (Netflix)
“Jojo Rabbit” (Fox Searchlight)
“Joker” (Warner Bros.)
“Little Women” (Sony)
“Marriage Story” (Netflix)
“Once Upon a Time in Hollywood” (Sony)
Martin Scorsese (“The Irishman”)
Todd Phillips (“Joker”)
Sam Mendes (“1917”)
Quentin Tarantino (“Once Upon a Time in Hollywood”)
Bong Joon Ho (“Parasite”)
Antonio Banderas (“Pain and Glory”)
Leonardo DiCaprio (“Once Upon a Time in Hollywood”)
Adam Driver (“Marriage Story”)
Joaquin Phoenix (“Joker”)
Jonathan Pryce (“The Two Popes”)
Cynthia Erivo (“Harriet”)
Scarlett Johansson (“Marriage Story”)
Saoirse Ronan (“Little Women”)
Charlize Theron (“Bombshell”)
Renee Zellweger (“Judy”)
Tom Hanks (“A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood”)
Anthony Hopkins (“The Two Popes”)
Al Pacino (“The Irishman”)
Joe Pesci (“The Irishman”)
Brad Pitt (“Once Upon a Time in Hollywood”)
Kathy Bates, (“Richard Jewell”)
Laura Dern (“Marriage Story”)
Scarlett Johansson (“Jojo Rabbit”)
Florence Pugh (“Little Women”)
Margot Robbie (“Bombshell”)
Taika Waititi (“Jojo Rabbit”)
Steve Zaillian (“The Irishman”)
Anthony McCarten (“The Two Popes”)
Greta Gerwig (“Little Women”)
Todd Phillips and Scott Silver (“Joker”)
Best Original Screenplay
Rian Johnson (“Knives Out”)
Noah Baumbach (“Marriage Story”)
Sam Mendes and Krysty Wilson-Cairns (“1917”)
Quentin Tarantino (“Once Upon a Time in Hollywood”)
Bong Joon Ho and Han Jin Won (“Parasite”)
“How to Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World”
“I Lost My Body”
“Toy Story 4”
International Feature Film
“Corpus Christi” (Portland)
“Honeyland” (North Macedonia)
“Pain and Glory” (Spain)
“Parasite” (South Korea)
“Edge of Democracy”
“Once Upon a Time in Hollywood”
Best Costume Design
“Once Upon a Time in Hollywood”
“Ford vs. Ferrari”
Makeup and Hairstyling
“Maleficent: Mistress of Evil”
“Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker”
I Can’t Let You Throw Yourself Away,” “Toy Story 4”
“I’m Gonna Love Me Again,” “Rocketman”
“I’m Standing With You,” “Breakthrough”
“Into the Unknown,” “Frozen 2”
“Stand Up,” “Harriet”
“Once Upon a Time in Hollywood”
“Ford v Ferrari”
“Once Upon a Time in Hollywood”
“Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker’
“Ford vs. Ferrari”
“Once Upon a Time in Hollywood”
“The Lion King”
“Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker”
Documentary (Short Subject)
“In the Absence”
“Learning to Skateboard in a War Zone If You’re a Girl”
“Life Overtakes Me”
“St. Louis Superman”
“Walk Run Cha-Cha”
Short Film (Animated)
Short Film (Live Action)
“Nefta Football Club”
“The Neighbor’s Window”
See what others are saying: (Deadline) (The New York Times) (Variety)
Brazilian Judge Orders Netflix to Remove Special Featuring Gay Jesus
- A satirical Netflix Christmas special sparked outrage in Brazil for depicting Jesus as gay and Mary as a marijuana smoker, among another tongue in cheek storylines.
- A judge ordered Netflix to remove the film after a complaint from a conservative Catholic group, saying that keeping it up could cause more damage than suspending it would.
- The decision came after 2 million people signed a petition asking for Netflix to remove the program and after the comedy studio behind the film was attacked with Molotov cocktails.
A judge in Brazil ordered Netflix to remove a satirical Christmas special on Wednesday that has infuriated politicians and religious leaders across the country for its portrayal of a gay Jesus and weed-smoking Mary.
“The consequences of the dissemination and exhibition of ‘artistic production’ … are more likely to cause more serious and irreparable damage than its suspension,” Rio de Janeiro judge Benedicto Abicair wrote in his court ruling.
The appeal in favor of Don Bosco Center for Culture and Faith, a conservative Catholic institute, comes after weeks of escalating outrage over the project titled, “The First Temptation of Christ.”
The complaint argues that the film, which also depicts Mary having an affair with God and one of the three wise men bringing a prostitute to a party, “attacked the protection of religious freedom.”
It adds that “the level of disrespect, aggression and contempt for faith and the values of Catholics displayed in the film is unspeakable,” according to BBC Brazil.
However, despite the backlash, the cast and filmmakers of the sketch-comedy group Porta dos Fundos have defended the project. Porta dos Fundos co-founder, Fábio Porchat, said last year that Netflix has a right to stream the film and that it supports free speech. He also explained that the film never incites violence or tells people not to believe in God.
In his ruling, the judge called the case a “clear conflict” between two constitutional principles: the right to artistic expression and freedom of speech, and religious freedom and the protection of church and liturgy.
However, he agreed to order the program’s withdrawal, saying it is “more appropriate and beneficial, not only for the Christian community, but for the mostly Christian Brazilian society, until the merit of the offense is judged.”
The temporary order stands unless Netflix or the comedy group appeals and a higher court strikes it down.
The decision comes as a win for conservatives who have been fighting against the special for weeks. In December, over 2 million people signed a petition asking Netflix to remove it from the streaming platform.
On Christmas eve, a group of men attacked the Porta dos Fundos headquarters with Molotov cocktails. No one was injured during the incident and days later, a video circulated on social media featuring three men claiming responsibility.
The men said they carried out the attack on behalf of Brazil’s “integralists,” a 1930s-era ultranationalist movement inspired by Italian fascism. The video’s narrator, who used a digitally altered voice, said the group wanted to defend “all Brazilians against the blasphemous, bourgeois and anti-patriotic attitude” of the filmmakers, labling them as “militant Marxists.”
The comedy group condemned the violence on Twitter, writing that “love will prevail along with freedom of expression.”
At this time, it is unclear when and if Netflix plans to comply with the order or fight against it. Porta dos Fundos said Wednesday that it has not received any direction to remove the project yet, however, Netflix has complied with other government requests to take down movies in the past.
See what others are saying: (The Washington Post) (BBC Brazil) (Time)
Camila Cabello Apologizes for Old Racist Tumblr Posts
- A Twitter user uncovered racist posts that singer Camila Cabello allegedly posted and reblogged on Tumblr in 2012 and 2013, when she would have been 15 or 16 years old.
- Some of these posts included the N-word, racist jokes made at the expense of Black, Asian, and Mexican people, as well as a joke about Rihanna being a victim of domestic violence.
- She apologized for these posts, saying that she was “uneducated and ignorant” at the time and that she will regret them forever.
Racist Posts Surface on Twitter
Singer Camila Cabello has apologized after a Twitter user uncovered old racist posts she allegedly shared on Tumblr several years ago.
The posts were made in 2012 and 2013 when Cabello was 15 and 16 years old. She posted and reblogged them onto a Tumblr account called “vous-etess-belle.” As the Twitter user who shared the posts pointed out, the profile picture appears to be of a young Cabello. On her confirmed Tumblr account, she also once said that “vous-etess-belle” belonged to her.
And here’s Camila on her main account admitting that vous-etess-belle is her account pic.twitter.com/S7hxMvPs6x— 🌉 || fan account (@motivatefenty) December 18, 2019
The thread started by saying, “exposing camila cabello‘s racist and downright disturbing tumblr reblogs: a thread.” The first post included in the thread was an original text post using the N-word.
Camila literally said the n word on her tumblr pic.twitter.com/95lUFxAQzs— 🌉 || fan account (@motivatefenty) December 17, 2019
The other posts had been reblogged on the account. Several of those also included the n-word.
this goes to show she knew exactly what she meant when she called her black bandmate the n word pic.twitter.com/lpKxa3FbCA— 🌉 || fan account (@motivatefenty) December 17, 2019
There were several other posts that referenced and made light of racist stereotypes.
She reblogged this extremely racist gif that stereotypes an African-American child pic.twitter.com/t33aEJ3GT1— 🌉 || fan account (@motivatefenty) December 17, 2019
Another racist post she reblogged pic.twitter.com/EppzifZnQm— 🌉 || fan account (@motivatefenty) December 17, 2019
Others made jokes at the expense of Black, Mexican, and Asian people.
she reblogged this racist text post pic.twitter.com/dubgjLkfbp— 🌉 || fan account (@motivatefenty) December 17, 2019
she also reblogged this xenophobic post pic.twitter.com/jOHsqCzlUh— 🌉 || fan account (@motivatefenty) December 17, 2019
Another controversial post was a meme making fun of the abuse Rihanna faced when dating Chris Brown.
here she is reblogging a post making fun of Rihanna being a victim of domestic abuse pic.twitter.com/9CBtGDl0FD— 🌉 || fan account (@motivatefenty) December 17, 2019
A post from her main Tumblr page was also included. In it, someone asked Cabello how to be a “strong independent” Black woman like her.
“Its not easy i guess its just something u have to work at,” she responded.
And this is from her main tumblr (waakeme-up) pic.twitter.com/eXIwlh6TT9— 🌉 || fan account (@motivatefenty) December 18, 2019
Reactions to Posts
This thread went viral, causing a lot of backlash online. Many called these posts out for being racist. A number of people also used the hashtag #CamilaCabelloIsOverParty to condemn the singer.
Some of her fans, however, came to her defense, arguing that she was young and has grown since this incident.
Man, she was 16 at thy time. She 22 now and she still apologizing still. She’s apologized so many times. You live and you learn from your mistakes. She learned that it was offencive please just let it go let her live.— Veah (@veahaluvv) December 19, 2019
But many also thought her age was not an excuse, arguing that a teenager should know better than to use racial slurs.
Others also said that many of the people forgiving Cabello were white. “How do you forgive words that weren’t directed at you…?” one user asked.
The “vous-etess-belle” account was taken down not long after the thread was posted. The URL now belongs to a fan of K-pop star Luna, who is using the page to promote the artist.
On Wednesday afternoon, the “Havana” singer took to Twitter and Instagram to apologize. She did not explicitly mention the thread or posts, but did say she was sorry for the language she once used.
“When I was younger, I used language that I’m deeply ashamed of and will regret forever,” she wrote. “I was uneducated and ignorant and once I became aware of the history and weight and the true meaning behind this hurtful language, I was deeply embarrassed I ever used it. I apologized then and I apologize now.”
“I’m 22 now, I’m an adult and I’ve grown and learned and am conscious and aware of the history and the pain it carries in a way I wasn’t before,” she added in the text post. “Those mistakes don’t represent the person I am or a person I’ve ever been. I only stand and have ever stood for love and inclusivity, and my heart has never, even then, had any ounce of hate or divisiveness.”