Full house actress Lori Loughlin and her fashion designer husband Mossimo Giannulli have agreed to plead guilty to being involved in a massive college admissions scandal.
It was only a matter of time.
Most federal defendants do not go to court, but those who do so are often found guilty. It is why so many white collar people accused of crimes rush to the court guilty pleading immediately after they are charged. This is not necessarily because they think they are guilty. They usually think they are innocent. More often, defendants want to avoid the prolonged agony of a trial, minimize their detention, and get the whole thing behind them.
Some defendants, such as Loughlin and Giannulli, vow to fight their cases pending trial. However, they say this at the beginning before the fight begins. Months later, when they drained their accounts to pay attorneys and lived with this study overhead, they often rethink their constitutional right to go to court.
In this case, the Federal Prosecutor’s Office has contributed to promoting early admission of guilt. Many others accused of massive fraud pleaded early and were sentenced quickly and to relatively lighter sentences. As for Loughlin and those who have kept their innocence? The government added more charges and potential prison terms, and increased efforts for these suspects. Defendants who admit their guilt and take responsibility for their crimes receive lower rates than those who deny their guilt and go to court: it is unofficially called the “trial tax”.
It didn’t happen to Loughlin. The defense agreement states that these defendants will not be affected by the “process tax”.
Loughlin and Giannulli face a 20-year legal maximum for committing wire and postal fraud to commit property ownership. Admittedly, first-time offenders like these defendants usually don’t reach the legal maximum. But under the terms of the plea agreement, the Loughlin area of the Penal Code would come to around 21-27 months. And yet, the government’s recommended rate is only two months (Giannulli, who is also guilty of a fee of honest wire and postal fraud charges, is behind bars 5 months ago).
Two months is more time than actress and co-accused Felicity Huffman received. Huffman ran to the court to plead guilty to receiving the least possible punishment, and to bring the whole experience behind her. Her sentence was 14 days; She was released after serving only 11 of them.
But two months are a lot less than 20 years. It’s also significantly less (about 93 percent less) than the high end of the sentencing guidelines area. The government had also pleaded guilty to the conspiracy, and prosecutors agreed to cut the number 2-3.
Of course, because only the prosecutor and the accused agree on one sentence does not mean that the sentence Loughlin got. The ruling tribunal is not bound by the parties’ mutual acceptance of a recommended penalty in a defense agreement unless it actually accepts the defense agreement.
Another unknown is the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on Loughlin’s judgment. According to the federal prison, 2,265 federal inmates and 188 agency officials across the country tested positive for COVID-19. There were 58 federal inmate deaths due to the coronavirus-related illness. The agency has increased home detention by over 40 percent since March, and on April 3, Attorney General William Barr exercised an emergency agency under the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act to further increase home detention .
It’s a bad time for the world, but a good time for those facing conviction, as judges and guards across the country are more prone to imprisonment, especially for first-time non-violent offenders.
Danny Cevallos is an MSNBC legal analyst who works in the fields of personal injury, unlawful conviction and criminal defense in Pennsylvania, New York and the U.S. Virgin Islands.