Stanford University's former head sailing coach, John Vandemoer, avoided prison time on Wednesday for his role in the largest ever college admissions scandal. The sentencing is a major blow to prosecutors who were seeking 13 months of prison for Vandemoer, according to USA Today. His defense counsel had sought probation instead of prison, and will likely see this outcome as a success.
Vandemoer accepted $610,000 in bribes in exchange for falsely designating college applicants as sailing recruits in order to help get them into the school. On Wednesday, Federal Judge Rya Zobel sentenced him to two years of supervised release, including the first six months confined to his home. He was sentenced to just one day in prison, but it was deemed that he had already served it. He was fined just $10,000.
The judge stated that she thought it was important to have some punishment "because it's too easy to do this kind of thing," but avoided prison time due to Vandemoer not personally profiting from the scheme. Vandemoer is the first of 22 defendants who pleaded guilty as a result of the scandal, having pleaded guilty to racketeering in March.
None of the students tied to his participation in the scheme attended Stanford directly as a result of his actions, but money changed hands regardless. The money went towards the school's sailing program, not for Vandemoer's personal use.
But prosecutors argued that his sentence should set an example, referring to a prison term as "the only way to deter similarly situated individuals" who are "entrusted with the power to shape figures."
Assistant U.S. Attorney Eric Rosen told the judge that a prison sentence for Vandemoer “will set the tone for this case going forward" and “send a powerful message”. Rosen also said it would signal to "honest and hard-working high school students" that wealth can't pay bribes to undermine the system.
Well, apparently, it can.
"No student slots were taken by under-qualified students or applicants," defense attorney Robert Fisher said.
Vandemoer's defense attorney also referenced letters from some of his former sailors and his wife, acting as character witnesses. Fisher pointed out that of all the 50 defendants in the case, "...everyone but Mr. Vandemoer gained something. He got nothing. He gave every single dime to sailing, to Stanford. He could have pocketed that. He didn't"
Fisher continued: “Jail isn’t going to do anything other than punish his family. He gave everything to those kids on that sailing team. Jail isn’t going to do anything other than punish his family.”
He concluded: "Mr. Vandemoer failed in one instance to live up to the high expectations he sets for himself. He fully accepts responsibility for his mistake. Mr. Vandemoer is determined to make amends for this mistake, move on with his life, and continue to provide for his family."
We look forward to the next sentencing in the college admissions scandal, set for June 20, for former Yale University women's soccer coach Rudy Meredith.