Last night, as I was about to go to bed, I read the news that Felicity Huffman, of Desperate Housewives fame, was sentenced for her part in “Varsity Blues”, the college cheating scandal involving dozens of people that has gripped the United States since the spring. Wealthy parents were paying off university officials to get their children into prestigious institutions of higher learning. Although most of the parents involved aren’t necessarily famous, there have been a few Hollywood notables involved in this case– namely Huffman, Lori Loughlin, and Mossimo Giannulli.
I was shocked to read that Huffman and fellow actress Lori Loughlin, and her husband, Mossimo Giannulli, had spent thousands of dollars in bribes in bids to get their daughters enrolled in prestigious colleges. Loughlin, who famously portrayed the wholesome “Aunt Becky” on Full House and Fuller House, and has been on a bunch of other family friendly shows in the interim, is probably watching Huffman’s case with interest. Loughlin and her husband have pleaded not guilty, and they will go on trial. Huffman, by contrast, pled guilty and threw herself at the court’s mercy.
Felicity Huffman paid about $15,000 to a fake charity to get someone to change her daughter’s answers on the Scholastic Aptitude Test so that her scores would be higher. Loughlin and Giannulli are accused of spending over $500,000 to get their daughters, Isabella and Olivia Jade, into the University of Southern California as fake members of the crew team. Neither daughter has ever participated in crew and, in fact, Olivia Jade even publicly stated that she doesn’t even care about college. She had a thriving social media influencer business going until this mess came to light.
Naturally, many Americans are outraged at what is clearly a case of people abusing their wealth and privilege to get ahead. Every year, thousands of students work extremely hard to legitimately earn their spots at top U.S. universities. It’s not fair to them that super wealthy people, like Huffman and Loughlin, can simply pay people off to get their children into the “right” college.
Since the spring of 2019, many people have been wondering what these privileged parents can expect as the court system begins to hand down punishments. Huffman was the first among them to be sentenced. After what I’m sure was a very stressful summer, Huffman got her answer yesterday. On October 25, 2019, she will present herself to a federal prison to serve her fourteen day sentence. The facility Huffman will be assigned to will most likely be minimum security, though I’m sure the experience will still be horrifying. She will spend fourteen days in the prison, pay a $30,000 fine, and complete a year of supervised probation. She must also complete 250 hours of community service.
I think Huffman’s sentence is just, although I can see by the angry reactions on social media that not everyone agrees with it. Many people seem to think she should spend a lot more time incarcerated. For some reason, a lot of my countrymen are in favor of putting people behind bars for years and years. We, in the United States, have a very revenge oriented culture, particularly when it comes to crime. I’ll admit it, when I get angry enough, I often want revenge, too. Ultimately, though, I think justice should be more about rectifying wrongs than exacting revenge.
Felicity Huffman isn’t a career criminal, nor is she a violent person. Her two daughters are grown and are reportedly quite humiliated by these events. In fact, I’d say the biggest loser in Huffman’s case, is her daughter, Sophia. Because her daughters are grown and Huffman is clearly distraught about the effect her actions had on her relationship with them, Huffman definitely won’t be repeating her crime. And while I can understand why so many people are outraged that such a privileged woman got such a “light” sentence, it doesn’t serve society to lock up Huffman for years. All that would do is punish the ultimate victim, Huffman’s daughter, who now has to live with the fact that her mother very publicly communicated that didn’t believe her child could achieve academic success on her own.
Moreover, Sophia Macy did not take a spot from another aspiring student, since the college she wanted to attend did not allow her to audition and, in fact, didn’t require SAT scores anyway. The young woman was reportedly horrified that her mother went to such lengths to rig the results of her college application, and it’s caused a serious rift in their relationship.
About that prison sentence– I found an interesting article about what it’s like for famous and/or wealthy people like Felicity Huffman to go to a federal prison. This is a woman who lives in a beautiful home, has people who cater to her, and has complete control over her comings and goings. She will enter a system where she will be strip searched, be forced to wear a used uniform and used undergarments, and will eat awful food, endure unpleasant smells, non-stop noise, and non-stop lighting. She may encounter inmates who resent her for being rich and famous, and guards who hate their jobs and take it out on her. Conversely, she may also meet inmates who try to take advantage of her. Or, looking on the bright side, perhaps she might make a friend or two and learn a new skill. Who knows?
If I were Felicity Huffman, I think I’d try to look at this experience as a way to add to my bag of acting tricks. She will experience incarceration, which will probably be hell for her. But perhaps in a future role, she can draw on her experiences and bring realism to the part. And while it might feel like she’s in for an eternity, the two weeks will eventually pass and that part will be over. A year from now, she’ll be almost past this mess and able to put it behind her. Lori Loughlin and Mossimo Giannulli, by contrast, will probably still be fighting for their freedom.
I was a late fan of Huffman’s, having not discovered Desperate Housewives until around 2008, when Netflix used to send me DVDs in APO mail in Germany. I used to be a real television addict, but I don’t watch as much now, and it often takes me some time to get into the popular shows of today. Sometimes, I don’t discover a show until it’s been off the air! Although I had heard of Huffman’s husband, William H. Macy, because I was an ER fan from the day that show started, I was not really a Huffman fan until I got into Desperate Housewives. I haven’t watched anything else she’s been in since then.
I have empathy for Felicity Huffman’s situation. I think she thought she was doing the right thing, trying to help her daughter get ahead in life, even though her daughter no doubt already has a lot of privileges most people don’t have. But even Huffman admits that she messed up, has expressed sincere remorse, and is willing to do her time and pay the fines. I, for one, wish her luck.