“Desperate Housewives” actress Felicity Huffman was sentenced Friday to two weeks in prison for paying bribes to help her daughter gain admission to a prestigious American university.
Huffman, 56, was the first parent to be sentenced among 50 people indicted in a wide-ranging scam to help children of the elite secure places in top US colleges.
“After this, you’ve paid your dues,” federal judge Indira Talwani told Huffman, telling her that after serving her term, she can rebuild her life.
“I think without this sentence you would be looking at a future with the community around you asking why you had gotten away with this,” the judge said, according to media outlets in the courtroom.
Huffman pleaded guilty in May during a tearful appearance in federal court to paying $15,000 to boost her daughter’s SAT college entrance exam score.
The plea avoided what would have been a well-publicized trial and a potentially lengthier jail sentence.
The crime is punishable by up to 20 years in prison and a fine of as much as $250,000.
Federal prosecutors had asked that Huffman be given a month in jail.
Her defence team recommended a sentence of a year’s probation and a $20,000 fine.
Huffman announced her intention to plead guilty in April, saying she was “ashamed” of what she had done.
The scandal erupted in March when the ringleader behind the scam, William “Rick” Singer, admitted running the elaborate system which ranged from cheating in exams to bribes.
Authorities say he was paid about $25 million to bribe coaches and university administrators. He has pleaded guilty and is cooperating with authorities.
His sentencing will take place on September 19.
In June, a former Stanford University sailing coach was the first to be sentenced, receiving two years of supervised release.
John Vandemoer, 41, had pleaded guilty in March for accepting payments to the program totalling $610,000 “in exchange for corrupting the admissions process of a major university,” prosecutors said.
A Chinese family admitted to paying Singer $6.5 million to guarantee their daughter admission to Stanford, with Vandemoer’s help, though the mother said she was duped into believing the sum was a charitable donation.
Besides Stanford, some of the universities targeted in the elaborate cheating scam include University of Southern California, Yale, Georgetown and UCLA. None of the schools or the students has been charged in the case.
Actress Lori Loughlin from 1980s-90s sitcom “Full House” has also been accused. She and her husband have pleaded not guilty and are awaiting trial.