The American justice system has been criticized (and not without reason) for allowing white collar criminals to get off with fines, community service or probation, while poor mothers who - and we're just throwing out an example here - used a relative's address to enroll their child in a better public school system wind up in jail.
But as the backlash to the college cheating scandal intensifies, will Aunt Becky's (aka Lori Loughlin) white privilege be enough to spare her from a stint in the big house? It's looking increasingly plausible that it won't.
To wit, the Wall Street Journal reported on Friday that federal prosecutors who have been negotiating pre-indictment plea deals with some of the 33 parents arrested in the college admissions cheating scandal are insisting on at least some jail time.
Federal authorities and at least some parents accused in the college-admissions cheating case are negotiating possible guilty pleas, according to people familiar with the matter.
Prison time may be included in pre-indictment plea deals, the people said. Nearly all the 33 parents accused in the case face a single charge of conspiring to commit what is known as honest-services fraud. Most haven’t been indicted.
The Wall Street Journal reported that prosecutors could add money laundering conspiracy charges for some of the parents as soon as next week. Two parents were indicted on such a charge on Tuesday.
Per WSJ, prosecutors are expected to indict some of the parents on charges of money laundering, to be added to the charges of honest services fraud (a type of mail fraud) that the group is facing. Most of the 33 parents who were arrested in the sweep haven't been formally indicted, due to the opportunity to negotiate a pre-indictment plea.
And in a sign that prosecutors are putting the screws to parents, a lawyer for one couple who spoke with WSJ said his clients had rejected a deal offered by prosecutors, and would plead not guilty at trial.
"They are definitely incentivizing parents to plead now and get a better deal than if they are indicted," Mr. Hooper said. He said he was told ahead of time that the money-laundering conspiracy charge would be added in the indictment.
All told, 50 people were charged for their alleged roles in a sprawling scheme allegedly masterminded by Newport Beach, Calif., college-admissions consultant Rick Singer who bribed test proctors, coaches and others to help get the marginal-student children of wealthy parents into a top school.
One thing is for sure: Given the media attention and intense public outrage over the scandal, prosecutors aren't going to just let the parents off with a sweetheart deal. As the above-mentioned lawyer told WSJ: "They are trying to expand this."