Felicity Huffman given prison sentence (a light one)

Actor Felicity Huffman, who pleaded guilty in the college-admissions scandal, was sentenced today to 14 days in jail beginning October 25, along with a $30,000 fine, 250 hours of community service and one year supervised release.

Although this was a compromise between the jail time her own lawyers wanted (none) and what the prosecution requested (a month in stir), the fine is actually $10,000 higher than the $20K asked for by both sides. The prosecution had also asked for a year’s probation, while her lawyers asked for 250 hours of community service.  It looks as if the prosecution got more of what it wanted than did the defense. And I think the sentence is about right, for it shows that nobody, now matter how rich and famous, is above the law.

As CNN reports,

Federal court Judge Indira Talwani said she thinks Felicity Huffman’s punishment is “the right sentence here.”

She also spoke directly to Huffman, saying, “I think you take your sentence and you move forward.”

“You can rebuild your life after this. You’ve paid your dues,” the judge added.

Fellow actor Lori Laughlin must be shaking in her Blahniks, as Laughlin pleaded not guilty to more serious charges, which include mail fraud. If Loughlin is convicted, there’s little doubt that her sentence will be far more serious than Huffman’s, for there’s the “plea tax”.  I wonder if she will change her plea.

As for the other 33 parents and mastermind William Singer, well, American doesn’t care about them as they’re not famous.

This is one case where the reason for incarceration is neither removal from society to prevent danger, or reform  of the guilty party (you can be sure that neither woman will ever do this again). The only valid reasons are to deter others and to reassure Americans that fame and money can’t always buy you a get-out-of-jail-free card.

Felicity Huffman arrives at federal court with her husband William H. Macy for sentencing in a nationwide college admissions bribery scandal, Friday, Sept. 13, 2019, in Boston. (AP Photo/Elise Amendola)

 

44 Comments

  1. Posted September 13, 2019 at 3:27 pm | Permalink

    Well done! The US justice system still works. In my beloved country of South Africa, there is theft of billions from the state coffers and no sight of any prosecution against the perpetrators.

  2. Adam M.
    Posted September 13, 2019 at 3:28 pm | Permalink

    We’ll see if she goes to a real jail or FPC Alderson, like Martha Stewart, where you can sign yourself out and relax under a tree (until 4PM)…

    • Ken Kukec
      Posted September 13, 2019 at 5:05 pm | Permalink

      With 14 days to serve, she’ll do the time at a local detention center. The Federal Bureau of Prisons doesn’t designate offenders to a regular BoP facility unless they’re sentenced to at least a year.

      Nobody does two weeks in the Big House, like Leavenworth. 🙂

  3. Randall Schenck
    Posted September 13, 2019 at 3:36 pm | Permalink

    Seemed to be a good verdict considering how poorly judges have been doing lately. The others coming down the road may be in for some serious time because some of them did far worse than this celebrity.

  4. Blue
    Posted September 13, 2019 at 3:40 pm | Permalink

    in re ” and to reassure Americans that fame
    and money can’t always buy you a get-out-of-
    jail-free card, ” … … if you are a woman.

    reference: the jailing – leniency given to
    Mr Jeffrey Epstein.

    Blue

  5. Posted September 13, 2019 at 3:48 pm | Permalink

    Yes Blue, wait till AI takes over the judges role with hundreds of millions of cases at their disposal in one algorithm, i wonder if this asymmetry amongst others would be made. Just a cherry thought.

    • Posted September 13, 2019 at 10:45 pm | Permalink

      What if the AI is infected with a celeb malware !

      • Posted September 14, 2019 at 4:09 pm | Permalink

        Seeing how there is already a vicious celeb malware occupying the US pesidential seat

        • Posted September 14, 2019 at 4:13 pm | Permalink

          Oops… AI is quite possibly just as corrosive but do a better job of it., i jest of course.

  6. Posted September 13, 2019 at 4:08 pm | Permalink

    I am ok with this as long as time is actually served.
    There is another scandal that is still a bit below the radar. I hope I get this basically right, which is where some wealthy people had a non-rich relative be made a legal guardian of their child. Then when they applied to college income was considered rather than the income of their real parents. The children then could get free financial aid including Pell grants. Very irksome since those funds are limited, and presumably it meant that people who really needed funding did not get it.

    • Posted September 13, 2019 at 4:09 pm | Permalink

      I meant to say the income of their non-wealthy relative was considered.

  7. Posted September 13, 2019 at 4:19 pm | Permalink

    I wonder how Craig Cesal, who is currently serving life behind bars at a federal prison — without the possibility of parole — for a first-time, nonviolent marijuana offense, feels about this.

    It is not the sentence that bothers me, it is the inequity of the punishments meted out. Poor people do hard time for non-violent crimes.

    • Michael Waterhouse
      Posted September 13, 2019 at 10:01 pm | Permalink

      I just had a quick look. It seems like a travesty, that he was in a sense set up, not having done anything wrong really.

      There must be thousands like this.

    • infiniteimprobabilit
      Posted September 13, 2019 at 10:59 pm | Permalink

      That is an indictment of the obscenely savage sentences perpetrated by the American ‘justice’ system, not an indication that Huffman should have gone to jail.

      In a civilised country neither one would do jail time.

      IMO.

      cr

  8. Jon Gallant
    Posted September 13, 2019 at 4:25 pm | Permalink

    The sentence could have been a lot stiffer. Were I the judge, I would sentence them all to four years servitude as undergraduate students at Evergreen State or Oberlin, with a required major in Critical (fill in the blank) Theory Studies.

  9. Charles Sawicki
    Posted September 13, 2019 at 4:32 pm | Permalink

    Good sentence for Huffman. Now we will see if she is actually contrite and accepts her sentence, or is a spoiled rich, self important brat who appeals.

    • Posted September 13, 2019 at 5:16 pm | Permalink

      She can’t appeal that sentence–not as far as I know.

      • Ken Kukec
        Posted September 14, 2019 at 11:16 am | Permalink

        Yes, in federal practice, plea agreements generally include a waiver of appellate rights. In any event, as long as a defendant is sentenced within the range specified by the federal sentencing guidelines, there would be no “error” in the record to raise on appeal.

        • Charles Sawicki
          Posted September 14, 2019 at 4:53 pm | Permalink

          Thanks!

  10. Ken Kukec
    Posted September 13, 2019 at 4:58 pm | Permalink

    … for there’s the “plea tax”.

    It’s actually a “trial tax”; you get a discount for pleading. It’s built right into the Federal Sentencing Guidelines — two levels off your offense level for acknowledging guilt and pleading, three if you plead early enough to allow the prosecution to avoid having to prepare for trial (and if your offense level starts out high enough to benefit from the extra level).

    Sounds to me like Ms. Huffman was sentenced within the range called for by the sentencing guidelines (which, even at their lowest end, give the judge discretion to impose a sentence of up to six months’ incarceration).

    It also sounds to me like justice was done.

    • EdwardM
      Posted September 13, 2019 at 5:36 pm | Permalink

      A bit off topic, in a recent discussion about plea deals I heard it described as a form of extortion. I tend to agree with that characterization but IANAL. So I was wondering what a real life lawyer thinks….

      • Ken Kukec
        Posted September 13, 2019 at 6:16 pm | Permalink

        Well over 90% of federal criminal cases are resolved through plea agreement rather than trial. If they weren’t, the system would quickly bog down and eventually collapse under its own weight, since there are simply insufficient resources to try every case.

        Nor should every case go to trial; often there’s no doubt about the underlying facts, and it’s in the defendant’s interests to cut his or her exposure to punishment by negotiating a resolution with the prosecution.

        Basically, there are two types of cases that wind up going to trial — those in which there is a real question regarding the underlying facts and, thus, a real shot at an acquittal, and those in which there is absolutely no doubt at all about the facts, so the prosecution adamantly refuses to negotiate, leaving the defense with no choice but to take its chances at trial.

        In the latter type of cases, the prosecution might throw a crumb or two the defendant’s way to convince him or her to forego trial. Such cases may seem like “extortion,” but in a sense it comes down to defendants coming to grips with the reality of their situation.

        Still, any defense lawyer worth his or her salt has to let the prosecution known that, if push comes to shove, they’re willing to take a case to trial, no matter the odds, if for no other reason than to improve one’s negotiating position. Sometimes the prosecution will capitulate and make a reasonable offer, since prosecutors tend to dread above all else the embarrassment of losing a trial that everyone in their office knows should be a slam-dunk winner.

        • Posted September 13, 2019 at 6:32 pm | Permalink

          You mean like Chris Darden and Marcia Clark?

        • infiniteimprobabilit
          Posted September 13, 2019 at 8:58 pm | Permalink

          Yet another reason why the death penalty is abhorrent. How many innocent people are in jail for lengthy sentences when the evidence against them was shaky and they should have fought it, simply because they took a plead deal to avoid the risk of a death penalty? How many prosecutors threatened the death penalty just to coerce a plea deal?

          cr

          • KD
            Posted September 14, 2019 at 10:58 am | Permalink

            There is a very limited range of circumstances in which prosecutors are entitled to seek the death penalty, and murder is not simply enough (Godfrey v. Georgia), there has to be aggravating factors. Its not a enough if you strangle a child to death, you usually have to kidnap, rape and torture them first.

            So the idea that in the instance of non-violent crimes such as this one (or other white collar crimes) people plea because they are being threatened with the death sentence is completely false. You are not going to be threatened with the death penalty unless you alleged to have done something horrific which includes murder.

            On the other hand, given the overlap with state and federal law, the feds have lots of resources and rarely take a case unless it is airtight, and the federal sentencing guidelines appear to have been written by someone who carefully read the Gulag Archipelago in advance. A federal defendant usually has overwhelming evidence of guilt and has every reason to believe they will get smoked after a trial, so there is a lot of pressure that would cause a rational person to plea in exchange for leniency. [On the state level, you have less resources, less professional law enforcement, often weak cases, and then it depends on the structure of the state law as far as how coercive the incentives are in favor of plea bargaining–but their hands are tied by federal constitutional precedent.]

        • Adam M.
          Posted September 14, 2019 at 1:52 am | Permalink

          What do you think about the phenomenon of overcharging people to “convince” them to take a plea deal? I guess to some extent if you want to negotiate as a prosecutor it’s reasonable to start out high with the expectation of coming down to a fair deal, but threatening an excessive sentence can also lead people to accept an unfair deal. I suppose an honorable prosecutor would unilaterally offer the fair deal if the defendant accepted the initial, bad deal, but I’m guessing that rarely happens…?

  11. phoffman56
    Posted September 13, 2019 at 5:53 pm | Permalink

    “..fame and money can’t always buy you a get-out-of-jail-free card.”

    Not always, but it appears fame/money can buy you electoral success, in fact the latter is impossible without somehow getting your (often grubby) hands on a pile of cash. Also the movies/TV fame didn’t hurt Reagan nor Drumpf, nor did pro wrestling fame hurt that guy who became Gov. of Minnesota IIRC.
    And when it’s that top level of electoral success, my goodness, it appears you can shoot someone dead (on 5th ave IIRC) and not only get off scotfree with your brilliant supporters, but you can’t even be charged (and not even really investigated by the law according to Mueller and bosses), as long as you continue as the Pres.
    Do any other countries give their head of state such licence?

    • Jon Gallant
      Posted September 13, 2019 at 10:02 pm | Permalink

      There are some primitive countries, such as France and Israel, where heads of state and former heads of state are actually subjected to the judicial system as if they were ordinary mortals. The United States has advanced far beyond, to a condition foreshadowed by England’s Charles 1, when he asserted that “the King can do no wrong”. But, then again, Charles lost his head on that one.

      • Ken Kukec
        Posted September 14, 2019 at 10:57 am | Permalink

        Across the Channel, Louis Quatorze went Chuck one better with “l’état c’est moi,” which seems to sum up Trump’s attitude, too.

  12. Arnold Lerned
    Posted September 13, 2019 at 9:05 pm | Permalink

    Some discussion of relative sentencing is in order.

    A black mother was sentenced to three years for lying about her six-year-old child’s address on a school enrollment application so her child could attend a better public school.

  13. infiniteimprobabilit
    Posted September 13, 2019 at 9:05 pm | Permalink

    “This is one case where the reason for incarceration is neither removal from society to prevent danger, or reform of the guilty party (you can be sure that neither woman will ever do this again). The only valid reasons are to deter others and to reassure Americans that fame and money can’t always buy you a get-out-of-jail-free card.”

    Not valid reasons, IMO. I don’t see jail as useful for offences that have not directly harmed anybody else, nor do I believe in ‘making an example’ of anybody. Why should any one person suffer an increased penalty, not related to the merits of their offence, but for publicity purposes? That is unjust, IMO.

    (And note, I absolutely do NOT think the rich should get preferential treatment, but I don’t think ‘high-profile’ people should get prejudicial treatment either).

    cr

    • infiniteimprobabilit
      Posted September 13, 2019 at 9:11 pm | Permalink

      As a comparison, have any of the Oberlin College functionaries been threatened with prosecution or jail time even though they conspired to directly attack a victim (Gibson’s bakery) and look like costing their college millions of dollars through their recklessness? There were direct victims there (Gibson’s). Who was guilty of the more malicious conduct, them or Felicity Huffman?

      cr

      • Ken Kukec
        Posted September 14, 2019 at 11:08 am | Permalink

        What “crime” do you suppose may have been committed?

        I think there would be grave First Amendment free-speech concerns over any such criminal prosecution. The US system generally consigns matters such as libel, slander, defamation, and tortious interference with business relationships to our civil justice system. But, even there, egregious misconduct can be “punished” with double or treble monetary damages (as was done in the Oberlin college case).

        • infiniteimprobabilit
          Posted September 14, 2019 at 7:50 pm | Permalink

          Yes, I know, not all malicious conduct is legally defined as a crime.

          But if you were to be on the receiving end of someone’s ‘wrongdoing’, which would you rather be on – Huffman’s or Oberlin’s?

          cr

        • infiniteimprobabilit
          Posted September 14, 2019 at 8:03 pm | Permalink

          Actually, I just used Oberlin as a ‘first thing that comes to mind’ example.

          I’d better clarify my thinking:

          Felicity Huffman did not directly or maliciously harm any individual. Indirectly she may have deprived someone else of a place, but that’s a much more tenuous link. So her ‘crime’ is really against the fabric of society.

          Now it’s quite easy at the moment to point out individuals who are systematically committing vastly greater crimes against the fabric of society (errm, orange person and associates) and most of them will never be punished for it.

          That’s why I don’t think jail is appropriate or helpful for non-violent, non-malicious offences like Huffman’s.

          (You can also find examples of poor people who have been subjected to savage penalties – that’s a strong reason to remedy those cases, not to inflict a greater penalty on Huffman).

          cr

  14. Posted September 14, 2019 at 2:20 am | Permalink

    A very very very light sentence

  15. Posted September 14, 2019 at 2:20 am | Permalink

    A very very very light sentence

  16. KD
    Posted September 14, 2019 at 10:43 am | Permalink

    14 days is joke. You’d think she had been convicted of failing to return overdue library books based on the sentence. One law for us, another law for you.

    • KD
      Posted September 14, 2019 at 11:04 am | Permalink

      This sentence exposes the issues around “white privilege”. Clearly, her treatment in the federal courts has everything to do with privilege. On the other hand, anyone who thinks that that kind of privilege extends to white proles who aren’t beneficiaries of trust funds is deluded.

      • Ken Kukec
        Posted September 14, 2019 at 11:34 am | Permalink

        Do you think Huffman should have been punished more harshly because of her whiteness and privilege — that she should have been made an example of because of those factors — which is to say, that the judge should have departed upward from the range called for by the federal sentencing guidelines (which you’ve described elsewhere in this thread as “hav[ing] been written by someone who carefully read the Gulag Archipelago”)?

  17. KD
    Posted September 14, 2019 at 11:15 am | Permalink

    Let’s see, there is Ohio Chapter 2921.04:

    2921.04 Intimidation of attorney, victim or witness in criminal case or delinquent child action proceeding.
    (A) No person shall knowingly attempt to intimidate or hinder the victim of a crime or delinquent act in the filing or prosecution of criminal charges or a delinquent child action or proceeding, and no person shall knowingly attempt to intimidate a witness to a criminal or delinquent act by reason of the person being a witness to that act.

    (B) No person, knowingly and by force or by unlawful threat of harm to any person or property or by unlawful threat to commit any offense or calumny against any person, shall attempt to influence, intimidate, or hinder any of the following persons:

    (1) The victim of a crime or delinquent act in the filing or prosecution of criminal charges or a delinquent child action or proceeding;

    (2) A witness to a criminal or delinquent act by reason of the person being a witness to that act;

    (3) An attorney by reason of the attorney’s involvement in any criminal or delinquent child action or proceeding .

    (C) Division (A) of this section does not apply to any person who is attempting to resolve a dispute pertaining to the alleged commission of a criminal offense, either prior to or subsequent to the filing of a complaint, indictment, or information, by participating in the arbitration, mediation, compromise, settlement, or conciliation of that dispute pursuant to an authorization for arbitration, mediation, compromise, settlement, or conciliation of a dispute of that nature that is conferred by any of the following:

    (1) A section of the Revised Code;

    (2) The Rules of Criminal Procedure, the Rules of Superintendence for Municipal Courts and County Courts, the Rules of Superintendence for Courts of Common Pleas, or another rule adopted by the supreme court in accordance with section 5 of Article IV, Ohio Constitution;

    (3) A local rule of court, including, but not limited to, a local rule of court that relates to alternative dispute resolution or other case management programs and that authorizes the referral of disputes pertaining to the alleged commission of certain types of criminal offenses to appropriate and available arbitration, mediation, compromise, settlement, or other conciliation programs;

    (4) The order of a judge of a municipal court, county court, or court of common pleas.

    (D) Whoever violates this section is guilty of intimidation of an attorney, victim, or witness in a criminal case. A violation of division (A) of this section is a misdemeanor of the first degree. A violation of division (B) of this section is a felony of the third degree.

    (E) As used in this section, “witness” means any person who has or claims to have knowledge concerning a fact or facts concerning a criminal or delinquent act, whether or not criminal or delinquent child charges are actually filed.

    http://codes.ohio.gov/orc/2921

    • KD
      Posted September 14, 2019 at 11:21 am | Permalink

      Above intended as a response to Ken Kukec in the thread at 13.

      • Ken Kukec
        Posted September 14, 2019 at 11:58 am | Permalink

        I think any witness or victim intimidation case would have been very difficult to make on the facts of this case — at least in the absence of an express quid pro quo threat that “I will ruin your business unless you drop the pending criminal charges.” Certainly, any prosecution predicated in any way upon mere pamphleteering or protesting or picket lines outside Gibson’s Bakery would have had grave First Amendment infirmities.


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