Parents in college admissions scandal call for charges to be dismissed

The group cited “extraordinary” misconduct, saying investigators bullied an informant into lying.
The group cited “extraordinary” misconduct, saying investigators bullied an informant into lying.

Full House actress Lori Loughlin, her fashion designer husband, Mossimo Giannulli and other prominent parents have urged a judge to dismiss charges against them in the college admissions bribery case, accusing prosecutors of “extraordinary” misconduct.

Defence attorneys for the famous couple and other parents fighting the charges said on Wednesday the case cannot stand because investigators bullied their informant into lying and then concealed evidence that would bolster the parents’ claims of innocence.

“The extraordinary government misconduct presented in this case threatens grave harm to defendants and the integrity of this proceeding. That misconduct cannot be ignored,” the lawyers wrote.

The US attorney’s office in Boston declined to comment.

Ms Loughlin and Mr Giannulli are scheduled to go on trial in October on charges they paid $500,000 to have their daughters admitted to the University of Southern California as rowing recruits even though neither girl was a rower.

Prosecutors say they snapped photos of the girls sitting on rowing machines to help make fake athletic profiles that portrayed them as star athletes.

Six other wealthy parents accused of participating in the scheme will stand trial alongside them. Another six parents are scheduled to face trial in January.

The defence says prosecutors withheld evidence that would support the parents’ argument they believed the payments were legitimate donations that would benefit the schools, rather than bribes for coaches or officials.

The evidence — notes from the phone of the scheme’s admitted mastermind, admissions consultant Rick Singer — was not given to the defence until last month.

Mr Singer wrote in the notes that FBI agents yelled at him and told him to lie to get parents to say things in recorded phone calls that could be used against them.

Mr Singer wrote that FBI agents told him to say he told parents the payments were bribes.

“They continue to ask me to tell a fib and not restate what I told my clients as to where there money was going — to the program not the coach and that it was a donation and they want it to be a payment,” Mr Singer wrote, according to the filing.

The defence says the notes show agents bullied Mr Singer into fabricating evidence and trying to trick parents into falsely agreeing the payments were bribes.

Nearly two dozen other parents have pleaded guilty in the case, including Desperate Housewives star Felicity Huffman, who was sentenced to two weeks in prison for paying $15,000 to have a proctor correct her daughter’s SAT answers.