Ahead of Felicity Huffman’s sentencing on Friday (Sept. 13), a prosecutor in the college admissions scandal case did his best to demonstrate how the court discriminates by race and class in similar cases.
Eric Rosen cited a 2011 case in which a single mother from Akron, Ohio, was sentenced to nine days in jail after falsifying her home address so her children could attend a better school district, NBC reports.
“If a poor single mom from Akron who is actually trying to provide a better education for her kids should go to jail, there is no reason that a wealthy mother with the resources should not also go to jail,” Rosen told U.S. District Judge Indira Talwani in court Friday, adding that court-ordered community service was not enough to consider as punishment for Huffman’s crime, NBC reports.
In another similar case, a homeless mother from Bridgeport, Connecticut, was slapped with a five-year bid in 2011 for enrolling her 6-year-old son in a school district where he did not live, CTPost.com reported.
“Who would have thought that wanting a good education for my son would put me in this predicament?” Tanya McDowell, who was also facing a drug charge, said in court at the time. “I have no regrets seeing a better education for him.”
The Desperate Housewives star paid $15,000 in 2017 to bump up her daughter’s SAT score so she could be admitted into the University of Southern California.
She was one of several wealthy parents involved in the scandal that’s been dubbed Operation Varsity Blues, NBC reports.
“I am deeply sorry to the students, schools and universities that are impacted by my actions,” Huffman said tearfully in court while reading a prepared statement, NBC reports.
“I take full responsibility for my actions and as a first step for making amends for my crime. I will accept whatever punishment you deem appropriate,” she added.
Huffman was ordered to report to prison by Oct. 25, according to NBC.
While Judge Talwani didn’t heed Rosen’s attempt at longer jail time for Huffman, she did comment on the advantages the actress enjoys because she’s wealthy.
“This is a system which does not have a pure meritocracy and a person in position of wealth and position you are in is a much easier position in this meritocracy of college admissions,” Talwani said, NBC reports. “In a system of that sort, in that context, that you took the step of obtaining one more advantage to put your child over theirs.”
Still, the judge was satisfied with the sentence Huffman received.
“I don’t think anyone wants to be going to prison, I do think this is the right sentence here,” she said, according to NBC. “You move forward and you can rebuild your life after this. You pay your dues.”
Singer John Legend, an advocate for criminal justice reform, commented on the disparities between prison sentencing for the rich versus poor people of color and said less jail time for all is the answer.
“I get why everyone gets mad when rich person X gets a short sentence and poor person of color Y gets a long one,” he tweeted Saturday (Sept. 14). “The answer isn’t for X to get more; it’s for both of them to get less (or even none!!!) We should level down not up."
“And no one in our nation will benefit from the 14 days an actress will serve for cheating in college admissions,” he wrote in another tweet after citing cases where women of color were imprisoned for “sending her kid to the wrong school district” and “voting, when unbeknownst to her, she was ineligible.”
“We don’t need to lock people up for any of this stuff,” he tweeted.
A user tweeted in response to Legend’s posts, writing, “Yeah let’s not have any consequences to crime… that’ll work well.”
The EGOT responded, “When you think no prison = no consequences. There are other ways to hold people accountable than the state paying 10s of thousands a year to hold them in a secure facility.”
(Photo: JOSEPH PREZIOSO/AFP/Getty Images)
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