- A California mother was hit with a three-week prison sentence, one year of supervised release, 250 hours of community service and a $9,500 fine for her participation in the massive college admissions scandal.
- Marjorie Klapper paid $15,000 to cheat on her son’s ACT and agreed to falsely claim her son was a black and Latino first-generation college student when he was not.
- The sentence has reignited conversations about sentencing disparities in cases involving white or wealthy people in comparison to poor people and minorities.
A California mother who paid $15,000 to cheat on her son’s ACT and falsely claimed he was a minority on his college applications was sentenced to three weeks in prison Wednesday, marking the ninth sentencing in the notorious college admissions scam.
Marjorie Klapper, a jewelry business owner, pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit fraud in May. To execute her crime, prosecutors say she made her payment out to a fake charity that the scam’s mastermind William “Rick” Singer created called Key Worldwide Foundation. Singer then paid a proctor to correct her son’s test, which resulted in him scoring a 30 out of 36.
According to the prosecutors’ sentencing memo, Klapper agreed with Singer to lie about her son’s background by saying he was “African American and of Hispanic/Latino origin.” She also agreed to say he was a first-generation college student, even though both of his parents had actually graduated from college.
Klapper’s attorneys said it was Singer and his assistant, not Klapper, who filled out her son’s online college applications that falsely presented his background.
Prosecutors had asked that she be sentenced to four months in prison and fined $20,000, while her attorneys pushed for no jail time. Instead, they asked for one year of supervised release, including four months of home confinement, 300 hours of community service, and a $20,000 fine.
The judge ultimately settled on the three-week sentence and included one year of supervised release, as well as 250 hours of community service and a $9,500 fine.
Similar Sentencing in Test-Cheating Cases
Her three-week sentence is similar to the other sentences that focus on the test-cheating aspect of the scandal.
Actress Felicity Huffman, for instance, began serving her two-week prison sentence Tuesday, after admitting she paid $15,000 to cheat on her daughters SAT test. Three other parents were sentenced to one month in prison for test-cheating bribes, while one other was given no jail time but a fine, community service, and probation.
U.S. Attorney Andrew E. Lelling said he disagreed with the three-week sentence, given Klapper’s bribe and her false claims about her son’s background.
“Ms. Klapper thereby not only corrupted the standardized testing system, but also specifically victimized the real minority applicants already fighting for admission to elite schools,” Lelling said in a statement. “We respectfully disagree that a three-week sentence is a sufficient sanction for this misconduct.”
Meanwhile, Klapper’s defense team argued that she was motivated by her child’s “legitimate and documented disadvantages,” as well as a recent violent assault. Klapper’s son suffers from seizures and has a learning disability, her attorneys said. They said Klapper chose to doctor his exams because she “wanted him to feel like a ‘regular’ student.”
“Mrs. Klapper’s motives were maternal but her execution misguided and illegal,” her attorney’s wrote. “Beyond question, Mrs. Klapper allowed her zeal to over-reach, for which she profoundly regrets and takes full responsibility.”
Internet Users Criticize Sentencing
As more and more of these sentences are handed down, social media users continue to criticize what they call leniency towards white or wealthy parents.
The lenient sentence are so white, African people who have been found guilty of sending their children to undesignated sch got five years sentences.— Viscount John Bull (@DvdTrnbll) October 17, 2019
She pretended to be a minority; but a minority, in her place, would have gotten 5-10 years behind bars.— Menard Millus (@Menardmillus) October 16, 2019
Three weeks. 14 days. For fraud, lies, bribes, etc. But, you know, they are privileged. So, there you go peeps. We don’t stand a chance where justice is concerned.— Velda Rene Burns (@singlblessed7) October 16, 2019
Similar reactions surfaced when Huffman was handed her 14-day sentence in September. The decision prompted many to compare these college admission scandal cases to other fraud cases involving low-income people of color.
One case many turned to was that of Tanya McDowell, a Connecticut woman who was sentenced to five years in prison for lying about her address to get her son into a better school district. At the time, she was homeless and living out of her van, shelters, and an apartment she only had access to at night.
Others pointed to the case of Kelley Williams-Bolar in Ohio, who used her father’s address to get her children into a better school district and was handed two concurrent five-year sentences that she was later able to reduce to 10 days.
Big names also jumped into the conversation like musician John Legend who argued that prison is not the answer in these types of cases no matter what a person’s income level is. He said there are other ways to hold people accountable.
As of now, a total of 15 parents have pleaded guilty for their part in the massive college admissions scandal, while 19 others are contesting the charges, including “Full House” actress Lori Loughlin and her fashion designer husband, Mossimo Giannulli.
The two are accused of paying $500,000 to get their two daughters into the University of Southern California as fake athletes and their trials are expected to begin in 2020.
See what others are saying: (CNN) (Los Angeles Times) (Fox News)
Trump Administration Shifts Control of Coronavirus Data Away From CDC
- Starting July 15, hospitals are to redirect their COVID-19 reporting away from the Centers for Disease Control and to the Department of Human and Health Services instead.
- The decision is billed as a way to “streamline” data collection across multiple government agencies.
- However, there are fears that the data won’t be completely transparent and available to the public now that it’s controlled by a Trump administration official.
The Trump administration ordered hospitals to bypass the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and send information about COVID-19 to a central database controlled by the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), starting July 15.
The move came as a shock to many health experts as the CDC has long been the agency where pandemic data has been submitted. However, the administration issued the policy change after discussions with hospitals and government task forces highlighted how cumbersome current data-submission processes are.
The government also hopes that by keeping the process streamlined, data will be more easily accessible to agencies other than just the CDC, including groups like the Coronavirus Task Force. That would allow the task force to better handle the pandemic and better allocate scarce resources like ventilators and remdesivir – a drug that is known to help reduce the recovery time of COVID-19.
The move to redirect which agency handles coronavirus information stemmed from a July 10 memo that laid out what Wednesday’s new rules would be. According to that HHS memo, back in late March, Vice-President Mike Pence sent a letter to hospitals across the U.S. asking them to send daily reports about the pandemic. It adds that since then, many government agencies have asked for similar information.
The administration claims that hospitals complained about how many different agencies were asking for information, adding that it was distracting administrators from actual hospital duties. Following these complaints, Dr. Deborah Birx, the White House coronavirus response coordinator, set up a call with hospital administrators and groups that represent hospitals to come up with a new plan.
Ultimately that call and other discussions led to the July 10 memo and Wednesday’s updates to how coronavirus data is collected.
Why Take the Data Away?
The move to switch COVID-19 data collection away from the semi-independent CDC and to the politically appointed HHS was a cause of concern for many. The largest complaint is that it’s moving the information away from experts who specialize in disease management and control.
Moving the information away from the experts has led to accusations that the administration is politicizing the science. Such an accusation was made on Tuesday in an open letter from the past heads of the CDC, both Democrat and Republican.
Dr. Nicole Lurie, former assistant secretary for preparedness and response during President Barack Obama’s administration, told The New York Times, “Centralizing control of all data under the umbrella of an inherently political apparatus is dangerous and breeds distrust,” adding, “It appears to cut off the ability of agencies like C.D.C. to do its basic job.”
This leads to another possible issue: that information won’t be made available. Like Dr. Lurie stated, there are fears the CDC and other groups will be blocked from the information. Jen Kates, Director of Global Health and HIV policy at the Kaiser Family Foundation also raised concerns to The New York Times.
“Historically, C.D.C. has been the place where public health data has been sent, and this raises questions about not just access for researchers but access for reporters, access for the public to try to better understand what is happening with the outbreak,” Kates said.
“How will the data be protected? Will there be transparency, will there be access, and what is the role of the C.D.C. in understanding the data?”
Streamlining the Data
However, despite concerns there are experts who think the decision is a good idea.
The CDC’s system is called the National Healthcare Safety Network and it’s known for being cumbersome and slow. On top of that, the guidelines for what data and how to submit it constantly changes, frustrating hospital administrators who have to report the data over and over again to a ton of different agencies who have shifting guidelines.
The new system, which is managed by TeleTracking, a health data firm in Pittsburgh, is supposed to remove some of those redundancies, partly by using one standardized submission form. Additionally, If hospitals report to their state, and that state then sends the info to HHS, the hospital can get a waiver and skip sending it to HHS themselves. Officials within the administration, like Michael R. Caputo, the Health and Human Services spokesman, explained the problem like this: “Today, the C.D.C. still has at least a week lag in reporting hospital data. America requires it in real time.”
Critics still point to one possible issue with this explanation, both systems use push data. Push data means both databases require hospitals, states, and agencies to actually input the data themselves and send it to the HHS. However, the July 10 memo does state that there are plans to automate the process, something the CDC has struggled to do for years.
Caputo tried to calm fears that the information was going to be locked away from the CDC and the public, saying, “The new, faster and complete data system is what our nation needs to defeat the coronavirus, and the C.D.C., an operating division of H.H.S., will certainly participate in this streamlined all-of-government response. They will simply no longer control it.”
He also went on to specifically say that the data would be available to the public. That information was also backed up by Dr. Birx, who gave assurances to hospital administrators back when this whole system was being set up that the info would be public.
Some doctors took the assurance at face value, like Dr. Janis Orlowski, who told The New York Times, “We are comfortable with [the switch] as long as they continue to work with us, as long as they continue to make the information public, and as long as we’re able to continue to advise them and look at the data.”
She also believes the switch is “a sincere effort to streamline and improve data collection.’’
However, as of Wednesday afternoon, there’s no data coming out at all. The New York Times reports, “the Health and Human Services database that will receive new information is not open to the public, which could affect the work of scores of researchers, modelers and health officials who rely on C.D.C. data to make projections and crucial decisions.”
There’s a key distinction there; the difference between the information being made public down the line, and having direct access to the database itself. The lack of data could be because the HHS system just went online as of July 15 and hospitals have yet to begin submitting their information.
It remains to be seen if HHS will beat the CDC timeline of “at least a week” to get the data about COVID-19 out, and whether or not it’ll be available to the public.
Trump Administration Drops New Visa Rules for International Students
- In a rare reversal of an immigration policy, the Trump administration has rescinded a directive that would have prohibited international students from remaining in the U.S. if they are taking only online classes this fall amid the coronavirus pandemic.
- The announcement came at the top of a federal court hearing Tuesday for a lawsuit against the move filed by Harvard and MIT.
- It also comes after what some called unprecedented bipartisan pushback from lawmakers, over a dozen tech companies, states, and hundreds of universities across the country.
- However, many believe the fight isn’t over because the administration can still try to issue other changes that impose restrictions on international students.
The Trump administration rescinded a policy Tuesday that would have denied visas to international students who planned to take entirely online courses at universities this fall.
U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) announced the policy on July 6 and was met with immediate backlash. Many felt it was an attempt by the Trump administration to pressure colleges into reopening this fall, despite concerns over the coronavirus pandemic. The consequences of such a policy could have been huge both for the U.S. economy and hundreds of thousands of foreign students.
Before the pandemic, ICE had a longstanding policy that prohibited international students from taking only online courses to maintain a valid visa. However, ICE temporarily waved online course limits in March when schools were forced to suspended in-person classes.
At the time, ICE said the limits would be waved “for the duration of the emergency,” so this bombshell change left students and universities scrambling. In response, just two days after the plan was announced, Harvard University and the Massachusetts Insitute of Technology filed a lawsuit against the administration over the decision.
That was just the beginning of the backlash that has snowballed since the announcement. According to the Associated Press, more than 200 universities backed the legal challenge, and at least seven other federal suits were filed by universities and states.
The directive has also been condemned by both Republican and Democratic lawmakers. Nearly 99 Democratic Congress members demanded a withdrawal of the policy last week, and on Tuesday, 15 Republican members signed a letter urging the administration to restore its previous policy.
On top of that, over a dozen technology companies came out in support of Harvard and MIT, including major tech giants like Google, Facebook, Twitter, and others who said the policy would harm their businesses as well.
All of those efforts seem to have been acknowledged Tuesday when the decision to drop the policy was announced at the start of a hearing for the Harvard and MIT case in Boston, Massachusetts. There, U.S. District Judge Allison Burroughs said the schools had reached an agreement with ICE and the Department of Homeland Security to “return to the status quo.” That means ICE will revert to its directive from March that waves online course limits during the pandemic.
The announcement is a huge victory for the groups challenging the government and has brought relief to thousands of foreign students who were at risk of deportation and whose lives were suddenly turned upside down with the fall semester quickly approaching.
Harvard’s president, Lawrence S. Bacow, said in a statement, “This is a significant victory.”
“These students — our students — can now rest easier and focus on their education, which is all they ever wanted to do.”
MIT’s president L. Rafael Reif said the quick opposition was evidence of “the important role international students play in our education, research and innovation enterprises here in the United States. These students make us stronger, and we hurt ourselves when we alienate them.”
Still, others were frustrated that it took so much pushback for the administration to back down. California Attorney General Xavier Becerra, who had filed a separate lawsuit challenging the policy, said in a statement Tuesday, “The Trump Administration appears to have seen the harm of its July 6 directive, but it shouldn’t take lawsuits and widespread outcry for them to do their job.”
“In the midst of an economic and public health crisis, we don’t need the federal government alarming Americans or wasting everyone’s time and resources with dangerous policy decisions.”
Admin Could Still Pass Other Narrow Restrictions
This news is huge because it’s one of the rare instances in which the Trump administration has retreated on a major immigration policy. Typically, the administration defends its controversial immigration directives, refusing to alter them unless forced to by a court.
The American Council on Education, which represents university presidents, applauded the move, tell the AP that the policy was “wrongheaded” and drew unprecedented opposition.
Terry Hartle, the group’s senior vice president said, “There has never been a case where so many institutions sued the federal government.”
“In this case, the government didn’t even try to defend its policymaking,” he continued.
Even with this reversal, many are still hesitant to call this case closed. That’s because the government can still try to issue a new policy that imposes other limits on international students.
According to the Wall Street Journal’s sources, one option that the administration could still pursue would apply the more restrictive rules only to newly enrolling students.
Even so, the judge in Harvard and MIT’s case has announced that she intends to keep the case open, which means the Trump administration would likely have to defend any such changes before her court, according to Vox.
As of now, the Trump administration has not commented on the reversal or whether or not new restrictions are in the works. In the meantime, schools like MIT have said they stand prepared “to protect our students from any further arbitrary policies.”
See what others are saying: (The New York Times) (NPR) (Associated Press)
US Carries Out First Federal Execution in 17 Years Following SCOTUS Ruling
- Early Tuesday morning, the United States went forward with its first federal execution since 2003.
- The move comes after the Supreme Court rejected a last-minute injunction filed by a federal judge to stop the execution.
- The judge argued that legal challenges needed to play out in court to determine if the federal lethal injections, which use a drug called pentobarbital, amount to cruel and unusual punishment, thus violating the Constitution.
- According to the injunction, the evidence presented to the court showed pentobarbital injections risk causing the feeling of drowning or asphyxiation.
President Donald Trump’s administration officially carried out the first federal execution in 17 years on Tuesday after a day of legal whiplash.
The inmate who was put to death had been convicted of three counts of murder in aid of racketeering in 1999 after he and another man killed a family of three, including a child, in Arkansas. Court documents allege that the murders were part of a broader plan to create a white supremacist community in the Pacific Northwest.
The man, who has been on death row at a federal prison in Indiana for 20 years, was executed by lethal injection and pronounced dead just after 8 a.m. According to the pool report, shortly before his death, he insisted he was innocent.
The execution marks the first time that the federal government has used the death penalty since Attorney General Bill Barr announced that the Trump administration would resume federal capital punishment last summer.
In that decision, Barr also mandated that all the executions be conducted via a single-drug lethal injection known as pentobarbital. The Justice Department was initially set to execute the man who was killed Tuesday as well as four others in December and January, but that plan was blocked by U.S. District Judge Tanya Chutkan of the District of Columbia.
In her injunction stopping the executions, Chutkan argued that using a single procedure for all federal executions violated the federal Death Penalty Act, which requires federal executions to be carried out in a way prescribed by the state where the prisoner was convicted. If that state does not have the death penalty, the prisoner can be moved to a death penalty state and will follow their execution orders.
Chutkan’s argument was that while lethal injection is the primary execution method in the U.S., the type and number of drugs used vary from state to state. However, in April, the D.C. Appeals Court struck down Chutkan’s ruling and the Supreme Court declined to hear the case, thus allowing the executions to go forward.
Following the Appeals Court ruling, the executions were rescheduled. On Monday, the day of the first planned injection, Chutkan filed another injunction seeking to block the execution of the man killed Tuesday as well as three others set to take place this week.
In her ruling, Chutkan argued that before the inmates could be executed, legal challenges needed to play out in court to determine if pentobarbital injections can be considered cruel and unusual and thus violate the Eighth Amendment of the Constitution.
She explained that people injected with pentobarbital risk experience flash pulmonary edema, which is the rapid build-up of fluid in the lungs that causes the feeling of drowning or asphyxiation resulting in “extreme pain, terror and panic.”
Chukan also wrote that the scientific evidence provided to the court “overwhelmingly indicates” that pentobarbital “is very likely to cause Plaintiffs extreme pain and needless suffering during their executions.”
The evidence submitted by the plaintiff’s experts, she said, showed that the “majority of inmates” executed by pentobarbital injections “suffered flash pulmonary edema during the procedure.”
The Justice Department quickly responded to the injunction, appealing to both the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals and the Supreme Court, and arguing that the preparations were already underway and that Chutkan’s order served “to scramble those plans with a meritless injunction.”
Supreme Court Decision
At around 2 a.m. Tuesday, the Supreme Court issued an unsigned, 5-4 opinion rejecting the last-minute legal bid and siding with the DOJ.
In the order, the court said that the inmates had virtually no chance of winning their argument that pentobarbital injections were cruel and unusual. The court also noted that pentobarbital had been used in “over 100 executions, without incident,” and that its use had been upheld by the Supreme Court last year.
The court decision also noted that the inmates “have not made the showing required to justify last-minute intervention by a federal court.”
The court’s four liberal justices opposed the decision in two separate dissenting opinions. Leading the first dissent, Justice Stephen Breyer raised broader questions about the constitutionality of capital punishment. He wrote that the death penalty is “is often imposed arbitrarily,” noting that the other man involved in the murders— who was considered more culpable— had received a life sentence.
In the other dissent, Justice Sonia Sotomayor condemned the rush to execute the same man.
“The court forever deprives respondents of their ability to press a constitutional challenge to their lethal injections, and prevents lower courts from reviewing that challenge,” she wrote. “In its hurry to resolve the government’s emergency motions, I fear the court has overlooked not only its prior ruling, but also its role in safeguarding robust federal judicial review.”
Notably, the court also refused to consider a claim filed by the 81-year-old mother of one of victims of the man being put to death to have the execution delayed.
In her suit, the woman argued that that the decision to hold the execution during the pandemic forced her and others to choose between their health and attending. She also claimed that the federal Bureau of Prisons had not taken the necessary steps to protect her and other execution witnesses.
While the Supreme Court did not issue an opinion or dissent on that matter, that DOJ argued against it, writing in court filings that it took their accounts “seriously, in accordance with their terrible loss and distinctive perspective.” The department also said that it was not required to factor in “the availability and travel preferences of those attending the execution when scheduling it.”