How Many Years Could Lori Loughlin Actually Spend in Prison?
Three legal experts weigh in.
As the fallout from the college admissions scandal continues, all eyes are on Lori Loughlin — especially after the actress pleaded not guilty to new charges in relation to the nationwide debacle earlier this week.
While fellow actress Felicity Huffman was sentenced to 14 days in prison for her part in the scandal, things are markedly different for Loughlin. For starters, Huffman pleaded guilty to the charges against her, a move largely believed to have gained her more sympathy than Loughlin and husband Mossimo Giannulli, who walked away from a plea deal. Not to mention, they've been accused of paying $500,000 in bribes to ringleader Rick Singer, compared to Huffman's payment of $15,000. As former assistant U.S. attorney Mimi Rocah (who is not involved with the college admissions case) previously told InStyle, "People who are convicted of $500,000 frauds usually spend time in jail. The way our system is, whether you approve of that system or not, the more money involved in the crime, the more potential jail time you face."
While the maximum sentences have been thrown around in the reporting surrounding the case (up to 10 years for bribery; up to 20 years for conspiracy to commit mail and wire fraud and honest services mail and wire fraud; up to 20 years for conspiracy to commit money laundering), it's unlikely that Loughlin and Giannulli will face decades in jail if convicted. So how long will they actually be locked away for if things don't go their way?
As legal analyst Dan Abrams recently told People, they could be facing a much longer jail sentence than Huffman, but not anywhere close to 50 years. Abrams compared the Loughlin-Giannuli case to that of Toby MacFarlane, another parent involved in the scandal, who pleaded guilty to paying a $450,000 bribe.
“Now this was a guilty plea,” Abrams said. “This was someone who’s accepted responsibility for it, and is still getting six months. So you’ve got to believe if [Loughlin] were to take it to trial, with the additional charge that’s been thrown on her, if she was convicted, she’d be looking at a few years. I wouldn’t be surprised if she got two to three years if she’s convicted.”
Adam Citron, an attorney at New York-based firm Davidoff Hutcher & Citron, tells InStyle that while it's hard to pin down what an exact sentence might look like, he doesn't see the Loughlin-Giannullis receiving a sentence of "more than a few years maximum."
"I believe the sentence would be more in line with MacFarlane’s sentence," he said, though he added, "It is possible that based upon Loughlin’s behavior during the course of this case and her lack of accountability of wrongdoing, a court may be less sympathetic and sentence her to more time."
Former federal prosecutor Neama Rahmani also predicted a similar sentencing, telling InStyle that a sentencing "depends on whether they testify at trial, perjure themselves, and obstruct justice."
"If they testify that they thought the payments to Singer were legitimate charitable contributions and not bribes, and the jury does not believe them and convicts them, that may be perjury and/or obstruction of justice," he said. "If so, I can see Judge Gorton sentencing them to one to two years in prison."
In April, Loughlin and Giannuli pleaded not guilty to charges of conspiracy to commit money laundering as well as charges of conspiracy to commit mail and wire fraud. They were later charged with federal bribery, and have pleaded not guilty to those charges as well.