Desperate Housewives star Felicity Huffman has revealed why she said “yes” to the college admissions scam that now has her facing jail time.
The actress is one of dozens of defendants charged in a high-profile college admissions cheating scandal dubbed “Operation Varsity Blues”.
Huffman is the first of several parents involved to be sentenced by a judge on Friday. Prosecutors are seeking at least one month in prison and a $20,000 fine. Her lawyers are asking for a sentence of one year of probation, 250 hours of community service and a $20,000 fine. The actress pleaded guilty in May to conspiring to pay consultant Rick Singer $15,000 to boost her daughter’s SAT result for college.
Huffman last week submitted an emotional letter to the judge intended to “shed light on how I finally got to the day when I said ‘Yes’ to this scheme”.
She wrote that her actions were motivated by concern her daughter’s learning disability would prevent her from attending college to study acting.
“I don’t write this letter to you in any way to justify my wrongdoing, my guilt or to avoid conscious acceptance of the consequences,” the three-page letter said.
“In my desperation to be a good mother I talked myself into believing that all I was doing was giving my daughter a fair shot.
“I see the irony in that statement now because what I have done is the opposite of fair. I have broken the law, deceived the educational community, betrayed my daughter, and failed my family.
“The factual story is that I didn’t go shopping for a college counsellor to find out how to rig a SAT score. I didn’t even know such a scheme existed.”
She said when her daughter found out about the cheating, she cried and asked, “Why didn’t you believe in me? Why didn’t you think I could do it on my own?”
“I had no adequate answer for her,” Huffman wrote.
“I was frightened and I was stupid.
“Please, let me be very clear; I know there is no justification for what I have done.”
She said she apologised to her daughter.
“In my blind panic, I have done the exact thing that I was desperate to avoid,” she continued. “I have compromised my daughter’s future, the wholeness of my family and my own integrity … I have deep and abiding shame over what I have done.”
In a letter to the court, the prosecution wrote that “her efforts weren’t driven by need or desperation but by a sense of entitlement, or at least moral cluelessness, facilitated by wealth and insularity”. “Millions of parents send their kids to college every year. All of them care as much as she does about their children’s fortunes. But they don’t buy fake SAT scores and joke about it … along the way,” it read.
The prosecutors argued Huffman knew that by cheating on the SAT she was depriving another student who did not cheat. They also said her actions cast doubt on the college admissions process, and on the legitimacy of learning disabilities, despite the privileges she and her daughter already enjoyed.
“She could buy her daughter every conceivable legitimate advantage, introduce her to any number of useful personal connections, and give her a profound leg up on the competition simply because she would be applying to college as the daughter of a movie star,” the prosecutors wrote.
Huffman said she worked with Singer — the mastermind behind the college admissions scheme — legitimately for a year. Huffman said she also consulted with Singer for her second daughter, who experienced learning disabilities as well.
“I was relieved that he seemed so good at his job, was so confident and knowledgeable,” Huffman wrote.
Singer pleaded guilty to four charges in March related to cheating on standardised tests and bribing college coaches and administrators.
After almost a year of working with Singer, Huffman said Singer told her “’we will make sure she gets the scores she needs” by having a proctor bump up her scores after she takes the test.
Her daughter would never know, and would be able to “concentrate on what really matters: her grades and her auditions”, Singer said, according to Huffman.
The actress said she struggled with the decision for six weeks.
“I honestly didn’t and don’t care about my daughter going to a prestigious college. I just wanted to give her a shot at being considered for a program where her acting talent would be the deciding factor,” she said,
“I didn’t want my daughter to be prevented from getting a shot at auditioning and doing what she loves because she can’t do math.
“As warped as this sounds now, I honestly began to feel that maybe I would be a bad mother if I didn’t do what Mr. Singer was suggesting.”
To her “utter shame”, Huffman wrote, she agreed to “cheating” on her first daughter’s SAT scores and considered doing the same thing for her second daughter — but “the decision haunted me terribly; I knew it was not right,” she wrote.
Huffman said she “finally came to my senses” and stopped the process for her second daughter.
Huffman said she would “respectfully accept whatever punishment the court deems appropriate”.
Originally published as Star’s grovelling apology over uni scam