- 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)
Florida Breaks Its Record for New Daily COVID-19 Cases and Hospitalizations
The Sunshine State now accounts for 20% of all new COVID-19 cases nationwide.
Florida Becomes COVID Epicenter
Florida reported 10,207 COVID-19 hospitalizations on Sunday, marking its largest single-day count to date. The grim record comes just one day after the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released data showing that the state had counted 21,683 new infections Friday, its highest record of daily cases since the start of the pandemic.
Florida has become the new epicenter of the most recent U.S. outbreaks driven by the delta variant. The state now accounts for one out of every five new cases, and the weekend numbers are highly significant because they surpass previous records that were logged before vaccines were readily available.
Notably, Florida’s vaccination rate is actually the exact same as the nationwide average of 49% fully vaccinated, according to The New York Times tracker. In fact, Florida’s rate is the highest among the top 10 states currently reporting the most COVID cases.
While Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) has encouraged Florida residents to get vaccinated, he and the state’s legislature have also made it much harder for local officials to enforce protections to mitigate further spread.
DeSantis Bars Masking in Schools
On the same day that the state reported its highest cases ever, DeSantis signed an executive order banning school districts from requiring students to wear a mask when they go back to school later this month.
The move directly contradicts guidance issued by the CDC last week, which recommended that everyone inside K-12 schools wear a face covering.
DeSantis, for his part, has repeatedly claimed the spikes are part of “seasonal” increases driven by more people being indoors and air-conditioning systems circulating the virus. Still, he argued also Friday that he did not think masks were necessary to prevent children from transmitting COVID in the classroom, where they are inside with air conditioning.
At the same time, last week, Florida reported more than 21,000 infections among children younger than 19.
Florida is not the only state that has banned schools from requiring masks. In fact, many of the states suffering the biggest spikes have done the same, including Arkansas, Oklahoma, and Texas — which all currently rank among the top 10 states with the highest per capita COVID cases.
See what others are saying: (The Washington Post) (NPR) (Axios)
Biden to Mandate COVID Vaccines for Federal Workers as CDC Changes Masking Guidance
News of the efforts came on the same day that the U.S. reported more than 100,000 new daily COVID cases for the first time since February.
Federal Vaccine Mandate
President Joe Biden will announce Thursday that all federal employees must get vaccinated against COVID-19 or consent to strict testing and other safety precautions, White House officials told reporters Tuesday.
Earlier in the day, Biden said he was considering the requirement but did not provide any more information.
While the officials also said the details are still being hashed out, they did note that the policy would be similar to ones recently put in place by California and New York City, which respectively required state and city workers to get the jab or submit to regular testing.
Also on Tuesday, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention updated their guidelines to recommend that Americans who live in areas “of substantial or high transmission,” as well as all students and teachers, wear masks indoors regardless of their vaccination status.
Delta Causes Spikes, But Vaccines Still Prove Effective
The renewed COVID mitigation efforts come as the delta variant is driving massive surges all over the country.
Coronavirus cases have quadrupled throughout July, jumping from a weekly average of 11,799 on the first day of the month to 63,248 on Tuesday, according to The New York Times tracker. Tuesday also saw new daily infections topping 100,000 for the first time since February, with more than 108,000 reported, per The Times.
While the vast majority of new infections are among people who have not been vaccinated, there have also been increasing reports of breakthrough cases in people who have received the jab.
Those cases, however, do not mean that the vaccines are not effective.
No vaccine prevents 100% of infections. Health officials have said time and time again that the jabs are intended to prevent severe disease and death, and they are doing just that.
According to the most recent data for July 19, the CDC reported that only 5,914 of the more than 161 million Americans who have gotten the vaccine were hospitalized or died from COVID-19 — a figure that represents 0.0036% of vaccinated people.
While safety precautions may be recommended for some people who have received the vaccine, many media narratives have overstated the role breakthrough cases play in the recent spikes. As New York Magazine explains, it is imperative to understand these new mask recommendations are not happening because the vaccine is not effective, but because not enough people are getting the vaccine.
“Because breakthrough infections have so often made the news due to their novelty, that can create a perception of more cases than are actually happening — particularly without more robust tracking of the actual cases to provide context,” the outlet wrote.
See what others are saying: (The Washington Post) (The New York Times) (CNBC)
Wisconsin Police Deny Planting Evidence in Viral Video, Release Their Own Body Cam Footage
The footage police released shows that during a search, officers found a corner tear from a plastic bag inside a backseat passenger’s pocket. An officer then discarded it into the car after determining that it was empty.
Viral Video Appears To Show Officer Planting Evidence
The Caledonia Police Department in Wisconsin has responded to a viral cell phone video that appears to show an officer planting a small plastic baggie inside of a car during a traffic stop.
The now-viral footage was posted to Facebook by a man who goes by GlockBoy Savoo.
The user, who also filmed the clip, wrote in his post’s caption that the officer did this “just to get a reason to search the car” and said the cop didn’t know he was being recorded by the passenger.
Police Shut Down Accusations With Their Own Footage
After that video spread across social media, many were outraged, calling the Caledonia police dirty for seemingly planting evidence. All the outrage eventually prompted the department to announce an investigation Saturday.
Within hours, the department provided an update, claiming that officers didn’t actually plant any evidence or do anything illegal.
Police shared a lengthy summary of events, along with two body camera clips from the incident. That statement explained that the driver of the vehicle was pulled over for going 63 in a 45mph zone.
Two passengers in the backseat who were then spotted without seatbelts were asked to identify themselves and step out of the car. During a search of one passenger’s pockets, an officer pulled out “an empty corner tear” from a plastic baggie.
Police claim the corner tear did not contain any illegal substances, though they said this type of packaging is a common method for holding illegal drugs.
In one body cam clip, an officer can be heard briefly questioning the backseat passenger about the baggie. Then, that piece of plastic gets handed off to different officers who also determined it as empty before the officer in the original viral video discarded it into the back of the car.
The officer can also be seen explaining where the plastic came from to the passenger recording him.
“Aye, bro you just threw that in here!” the front seat passenger says, as heard in his version of the events.
“Yeah, cause it was in his pocket and I don’t want to hold onto it. It’s on their body cam that they took it off of him…I’m telling you where it came from, so. It’s an empty baggie at the moment too, so,” the officer replies.
The department went on to explain that while it would discourage officers from discarding items into a citizen’s car, this footage proves that evidence was not planted.
Authorities also noted that no arrests were made in this incident and the driver was the only one issued a citation for speeding. The statement added that since four officers were present at the scene, police have more than six hours of footage to review but they promised to release the footage in full in the near future.