rants, true crime

Getting out of jail early…

This morning, I read that Skylar Mack got out of jail and came back to the United States. Skylar Mack is the young American woman from Georgia who made headlines last month after violating COVID-19 quarantine rules in the Cayman Islands. She was there to see her 24 year old boyfriend, Vanjae Ramgeet, in a jet ski race. People at the race saw her violating quarantine and turned her in to the authorities. Skylar was initially given a light punishment, but some Cayman officials decided to make an example out of her and re-sentenced her to four months in prison.

Skylar is now out of jail.

Lots of Americans were outraged by Skylar Mack’s behavior and fully supported the tougher sentence. I went on record to say that I thought it was too harsh. Cooler heads in the Cayman Islands prevailed, and Skylar got a reduced sentence of two months. And, thanks to the local custom of letting well-behaved prisoners out after they serve 60% of their sentences, Skylar and her boyfriend, Vanjae Ramgeet, have both been released. Skylar Mack is said to be at home and very happy to be back in the United States, having survived her ordeal in a Caribbean prison.

I, for one, am glad she’s out. I hope she’s learned her lesson and will not offend again. I’m sure she won’t soon forget what she went through, and may now have more appreciation for what she has. I don’t think having her sit in jail for more time would have changed much of anything, and would only give her nightmares and personal setbacks. Life is tough enough right now, for EVERYONE.

While some people seem to think that anyone breaking COVID-19 rules is “murderous”, I, for one, think that’s a bit of virtue signaling hyperbole. COVID-19 is very contagious and potentially very dangerous, but it’s caused by a virus. Viruses are tiny, wily, and built for survival. People have to live their lives, and some folks will get sick no matter what. What Skylar Mack did was irresponsible, disrespectful, and very foolish, and she definitely deserved to be punished for it, but she’s not likely to become a habitual criminal. Doing what many 18 year olds would have done doesn’t make her a terrible person. Her life shouldn’t be ruined for breaking the rules… and thankfully, it looks like it won’t be.

I’m not a huge believer in lengthy incarceration as punishment, especially for non-violent crimes. And that’s why I’m also thinking that Lori Loughlin’s husband, Mossimo Giannulli, should also be allowed to serve the rest of his sentence for conspiracy to commit wire and mail fraud and honest services wire and mail fraud at home. Giannulli was sentenced to five months in a minimum security prison for his part in a scam that got his two daughters admitted to the University of Southern California on false pretenses.

I don’t think he’s wrong to complain.

Giannulli was supposed to go to FCI-Lompoc, a minimum security federal lockup near Santa Barbara, California, after he turned himself in back in November 2020. However, after he completed his two week COVID-19 quarantine, he was moved to a small cell at the adjacent medium security penitentiary. For 56 days, he was kept in solitary confinement, only allowed out of the cell for three twenty minute breaks per week. He was finally moved to the minimum security camp on January 13th, probably because his lawyers have been making a stink and word has gotten out in the press.

Solitary confinement is a harsh punishment. It’s inappropriate, given the nature of Giannulli’s crime. He should not have been locked down like that for 56 days, especially if he was supposed to be incarcerated at a minimum security camp. I know people want to scream about privilege, but I don’t think they’ve stopped to think about what it means to be locked in a cell for 24 hours a day for weeks on end. The punishment ought to fit the crime, even if the confinement is, supposedly, for his “own protection”.

Many people think Mossimo Giannulli deserves some abuse. They cite his “white privilege” and “wealth”, as well as an attitude of entitlement, as they haughtily claim that it’s fair for him to rot in solitary confinement. I guess it’s a crime to have money, in some people’s views. It always makes me shake my head when people armchair quarterback these cases and think someone’s prison sentence isn’t harsh enough. When I’ve called people out on their high and mighty positions, asking them if that’s how they would want to be treated if they should ever get in trouble, they always tell me that they would never do what the person has done. But sometimes shit happens, and people find themselves on the wrong side of the law. I think, in a civilized society, we must temper justice with mercy.

I absolutely think it was right for Lori Loughlin and Mossimo Giannulli to have to face consequences for what they did. I don’t even think being in jail was inappropriate. But when it comes down to it, their crimes weren’t violent. Their daughters are now outed, and won’t be getting over anymore. They won’t be committing this crime again. There’s no need to force them to rot in a cell for long periods of time. I don’t think that’s appropriate for ANYONE, regardless of their race, class, or creed, when the crime isn’t one that resulted in injuries or deaths of other people. Americans are way too enamored with putting people in prison to punish them, rather than investing in humanity.

Given the fact that Giannulli has now spent two months in prison under much harsher conditions than what was agreed upon in court when he was sentenced, I don’t think he’s out of line for requesting home confinement. However, I also know that what I think and a nickel will get us nowhere. 😉

A lot of people are big believers in making examples out of others. They don’t seem to realize that someday, someone might want to make an example out of them or a loved one. Someone might think they need to be made an example out of for everyone else. Believe me, perspectives always change when the shoe is on the other foot.

I don’t condone breaking the law. I just don’t think that incarceration for long periods of time for non-violent crimes is the answer. I especially feel that way in situations when it’s a first offense or likely to be an only offense. In both Skylar Mack’s and Lori Loughlin’s and Mossimo Giannulli’s cases, the crimes were non-violent and unlikely to be repeated. If someday, Skylar Mack decides to reoffend in the Cayman Islands, I think it would make sense for her to get a harsher punishment for breaking the rules. But I highly doubt Skylar will be going anywhere anytime soon, and I doubt she’ll cause any more trouble, at least not in the Caribbean.

Likewise, Lori Loughlin and Mossimo Giannulli probably won’t get caught up in another legal situation anytime soon, at least not involving their daughters going to college. So I won’t be upset if Mossimo gets out of jail early. I think it’s appropriate, under the circumstances. And I would feel that way even if he wasn’t a rich, white guy. Incarceration isn’t a good idea during a pandemic, anyway. We’re all pretty much incarcerated as it is.

And… just because I’m happy about it– one more day to go before Trump is out of office. Yea!

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celebrities

Lori Loughlin now has an inkling of what I went through…

Happy New Year, everybody. Here’s a quick post before I head off to enjoy the first day of 2021.

This morning, I noticed an article about the actress, Lori Loughlin, who very recently got sprung from prison after serving nearly two months for her part in in the nationwide college admissions scandal. Loughlin and her husband, Mossimo Giannulli, paid $500,000 to get their daughters admitted to the University of Southern California on false pretenses. They, along with actress, Felicity Huffman, and a bunch of other well-heeled parents, got busted in 2019.

Huffman chose to plead guilty and do her 11 days of time at a federal lockup in Dublin, California in October 2019. Loughlin and her husband, however, continued to fight the charges. They finally admitted to their crimes in May 2020, and settled over the summer, probably when it became clear that if they went on trial, they might have to go to prison for years. Loughlin reported to prison on October 30 and was released December 28, 2020, a couple of days shy of the two months she was supposed to serve.

Lots of people were very disappointed that she’s out of prison. I, for one, am glad the ordeal is over for her. I don’t think prison was appropriate for this crime. Our culture locks people up for everything, and we have so many citizens incarcerated for non-violent crimes. It’s turned into a for profit racket. In any case, it’s over for Lori, and now she can focus on living her life and maybe getting back to her career. She won’t repeat this crime, so I think we can all feel safe that she’s been released and she’ll put this behind her.

Anyway, as I was reading about Lori Loughlin, I noticed that the article mentioned that she’s now focused on her husband’s eventual release. Thanks to COVID-19, Giannulli can’t have visitors. But he should be getting out of the joint by April 2021.

It occurred to me that Lori and her daughters now have an idea of what military spouses go through when there’s a lengthy deployment. My husband went to Iraq for six months, starting in January 2007. I was alone for six months in a brand new house we had just moved into on Fort Belvoir. I couldn’t visit Bill, and like Lori Loughlin, we kept in contact by phone and email. An added stressor was the fact that Bill’s boss’s predecessor was killed in a helicopter crash in Iraq, just a couple of weeks before he was scheduled to come home. I knew that was highly unlikely to happen to Bill, but it was still a grim reminder that things can still go wrong, even when it seems like you’re home free.

When he was at war in Iraq, I missed Bill terribly and worried about him constantly, but the time flew by… and one thing Lori won’t have to worry about is getting a visit by two uniformed service members there to tell her her husband has been killed. I mean, it’s possible Mossimo could die in prison, but it’s highly unlikely that will happen. If it does happen, she won’t be informed in person by conspicuous bearers of bad news, although I’m sure it will be all over the news. Military spouses with deployed husbands and wives have to worry about that possibility all the time. Mossimo is also in California, rather than a far away Middle Eastern nation.

I’m sure she’ll be okay. It won’t be long until springtime is here, and she’ll have her husband home with her again. They can work on rebuilding their lives after this mess. And– perhaps an added positive. I don’t have to see the constantly recycled stock photos of Lori in her tan pantsuit or grey dress with a sweater anymore.

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celebrities, musings

Why do we love to see people rot?

I was just sitting here thinking about what I wanted to write about today. I was looking through old posts I’ve done and toyed with the idea of visiting an old chestnut or two, themes that never wear out or get old. I could write about a pressing personal issue this morning… but I’ve learned my lesson about sharing too much of myself prematurely.

Then I remembered a snarky article I happened to read the other day about Lori Loughlin and her husband, Mossimo Gianulli. I had wanted to write about it when I first read it, but then something else came up that was more pressing and it slipped my mind. But now I need a topic, so here’s another article about Lori and Mossimo. It’s one of so many circulating right now… but it may be a little different than those other articles.

Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you know that Lori and Mossimo are going to be incarcerated soon. Lori will spend two months at a medium security lockup in Victorville, California. Mossimo will likely do five months at a minimum security joint in Santa Barbara. Although the facilities where they will be incarcerated are described as kind of cushy, they’re still lockups. The experience will certainly suck, even if Lori Loughlin’s prison offers courses in calligraphy and pilates. No, she’s not going to be doing hard time, but her crime doesn’t really warrant doing hard time, does it?

For some reason, a lot of people in the United States have the idea that locking people up for as long as possible is the best thing to do when they’ve misbehaved. I’ve read a lot of comments by people who are dismayed when someone gets let of out of jail early. So many people love to parrot that old line, “If you can’t do the time, don’t do the crime.” They are just fine with people being incarcerated endlessly. They don’t seem to care much about what happens to them after they’ve been locked up for awhile.

The article I read that prompted today’s post was heavy on sarcasm. I’ll grant that it was kind of a funny post. Even more than the original article, I was affected by a comment someone left pointing out the hypocrisy of readers who were jeering at Lori’s cushy jailhouse digs. The person pointed out that regular readers of that publication tended to be left leaning folks who were in favor of prison reform. And yet, there they were, laughing at the idea that someone might have access to classes and activities that promote physical, spiritual, and mental well-being.

Good points here.

And another comment:

I do wonder what people actually want in this situation. Do they want her to be tortured and put into squalid conditions? I’ve noticed there’s this weird sort of thing in this country where we want to lower the bar rather than raise it. So if a bunch of people are treated like shit, and some are treated better, the solution is then not to treat everyone better, but instead treat everyone equally bad. It’s like if you find out your co-worker makes more than you, and instead of wanting to make the same amount as him, you’d rather see his paycheck go down to match yours. Then everybody loses!

I get it, though. Some people pointed out that if Lori weren’t so rich and famous, she wouldn’t be going to a place that is so “cushy”. But… does that mean that everyone in that jail is rich and famous? Surely, there are people incarcerated there who aren’t worth millions and don’t have a pretty face. Moreover, there have been famous people from wealthy families who have gone to “real” prisons . Cameron Douglas, son of movie star Michael Douglas, did “hard time”. So has Redmond O’Neal, son of movie star Farrah Fawcett.

So people are pissed off that Lori Loughlin, who is not a violent criminal and is highly unlikely to ever repeat her crime, is going to do two months in a prison where she can practice yoga and learn new skills. I wonder if any of these folks, having been caught breaking the law (which pretty much everyone does at least once in a lifetime), would want to be sent to a shit hole where they are regularly threatened, beaten up, and fed slop. Would they want that for a friend or a loved one? If there’s a chance that a person will emerge from a corrections facility, isn’t it better that the person comes out with coping skills, good mental and physical health, and a positive self-image? Is it really better to simply focus only on punishment, rather than teaching a person the error of their ways and why they shouldn’t have done what they did? Shouldn’t we also have some regard for them as human beings?

It seems to me that instead of being pissed off that Lori and Mossimo are getting off lightly, we should be pissed off that people with fewer resources end up in worse conditions than they should. We should be angry that people get wrongly accused of crimes and wind up locked up in hellholes for years. We should be pissed off that a man who does 22 years in a California prison and comes out a better person– having actually risked his life to fight wild fires while still incarcerated– gets rounded up by ICE and sent to another lockup, destined to be deported to a country he hasn’t seen since he was two years old and doesn’t recognize him as a citizen.

Granted, no one really needs to know how to write in calligraphy. No one needs to do yoga or pilates. But these are activities that are basically healthy and wholesome and may be a better outlet for incarcerated people than hanging out with other criminals and learning how to make shivs. Moreover, not all criminals are created equally. Non-violent people should not be locked down in cells and forced to dig ditches with murderers and rapists. People who can be rehabilitated should be rehabilitated and given a chance.

Lori Loughlin doesn’t need all of the activities her prison will offer. But she is not representative of all of the people in that facility. Other people who are locked up there might not have those opportunities on the outside. Maybe a course in calligraphy is all someone needs to find a new path. I don’t think incarceration always has to be about punishment and being in hell. It should mostly be about correcting bad behavior and learning better skills. Yes, there are people out there who can’t be rehabilitated. Yes, there are dangerous people who are mad at the world and would never benefit from learning how to crochet or make origami. But I think there are fewer of them than regular folks who have made mistakes.

I don’t cheer for locking people up. I think prisons should be reserved for people who are violent or otherwise extremely dangerous. Prisons cost society a lot– taxpayer dollars as well as the lives ruined by prison records that make it impossible for some people to ever recover. And, as we discovered last week in the story about the women who had hysterectomies against their wills, there are for profit corporations that are committing real crimes against detainees.

Prisoners are people, and they have basic human rights. Lori Loughlin is rich, beautiful, wealthy, and lucky beyond most people’s wildest dreams, but that doesn’t mean she needs to be rotting in a jail cell. No one should be “rotting” away in jail. That’s not an acceptable standard for human beings.

So, I hope Lori and Mossimo do their time, learn something from it, and come back whole to their families. I strongly suspect they won’t reoffend, and especially if they do learn a new skill like “cartoon drawing”, the experience will make them better people. I suspect that most of the people bitching about the “light sentence” would not want to trade places with them, nor would they be sad if they were sentenced to a similarly “cushy” lockup. It’s still prison, people, and it is going to suck. It will be humiliating, degrading, shameful, and unpleasant. But I feel very sure that they’ve learned their lessons, and that is all that really matters.

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true crime

So Lori Loughlin and her husband are pleading guilty… it’s about time.

A couple of days ago, I read the news that actress Lori Loughlin and her husband, Mossimo Giannulli have decided to enter guilty pleas to paying $500,000 to get their daughters, Olivia Jade, and Isabella into the University of Southern California. The two, who have constantly been in the news since March 2019, initially pleaded not guilty to the crimes for which they are accused. Loughlin and Giannulli have both been charged with conspiracy to commit mail fraud. Giannulli has also been charged with honest services wire and mail fraud.

Prosecutors also accused the couple of money laundering and federal programs bribery, but in exchange for their guilty pleas, prosecutors have agreed to drop the money laundering and bribery charges. Before this deal was hatched, Loughlin and Giannulli were facing the possibility of spending many years in prison. Now, provided that the judge, Nathaniel Gorton, accepts their guilty pleas, Loughlin will likely spend two months in prison and Giannulli will spend five months. In addition, they will each pay fines– $150,000 for Loughlin and $250,000 for Giannulli, and do community service– 100 hours for Loughlin and 250 for Giannulli. They will also be on supervised probation for two years. So far, Judge Gorton has said he needs to consider the pre-sentencing report.

A lot of people think the proposed sentences are much too light. I’ve read a number of comments about how this couple is “privileged” and getting off because they are wealthy white people. And you know what? That’s probably true. It’s not fair. However, my personal feeling is that even though the sentences are very light, they’re still really going to suck for Loughlin and Giannulli. They haven’t done anything violent, so they aren’t a danger to other people. And they will never repeat this crime, since their daughters are now grown and have been exposed.

I’m not sure what people expect wealthy people to do in these situations. What would make this better and be just? Do people expect Lori Loughlin and her husband to just lose everything? If the people commenting were ever in Lori Loughlin’s shoes, would they volunteer to ruin their own lives out of contrition? People make mistakes, and this was a whopper of one. But in the grand scheme of things, this situation is kind of a minor thing. No one was hurt or killed. The worst that happened is that a couple of potential USC students didn’t get a fair shot at a place at a prestigious university. And that really sucks for people who work very hard, but aren’t blessed with wealth, fame, and good looks. But it’s not like someone died.

Does a longer stay in prison for Loughlin and Giannulli really serve society? What can they do for society when they sit in prison? I don’t think they can do much. But on the outside of prison, they can do community service and pay fines that will help someone. Maybe they’ll learn something from the experience of being locked up for a few months, but aside from that, I can’t see how their being behind bars is going to make the world a better place.

For the life of me, I don’t understand the obsession some people have with punishing people by locking them up for many years on end. I don’t think that warehousing people in prison is a good idea, unless the person being warehoused is a true threat to other people or their property. I mean, if someone repeatedly commits burglary or burns down buildings, I can see putting them in prison for that. But imprisoning people non violent crimes, particularly when no one was actually injured or killed, can ruin lives. I’d rather see people remain employable and accessible to their families, who also suffer when a loved one is incarcerated.

I admire the way Felicity Huffman handled her punishment for bribing a college official. She owned up to it immediately, pleaded guilty, paid a fine, and did her eleven days (down from fourteen) in prison. She’s doing community service and keeping a low profile. The news that has come out about her recently has been good. I think she’ll make a full recovery and we’ll see her acting again before too long. She will be able to put this behind her.

I don’t think Lori Loughlin and her husband were very smart in how they handled their situation. I get that they didn’t want to go to prison. Who does? But if they had just admitted what they did and made amends, this would be over much sooner. And then we could see “Aunt Becky” back on the small screen, flashing her pearly whites and being cute. Unfortunately, I think it will take a lot longer for her to recover from this mess because it’s been in the news for over a year.

I’m sure a lot of people think this deal is lame because it does seem like such a light sentence. And maybe if Lori Loughlin weren’t a rich, white woman, she might have gotten a stiffer sentence. On the other hand, if Lori Loughlin weren’t a rich woman, she probably wouldn’t be in this situation in the first place. Anyway, given all that is going on in the world right now, I don’t think we need to lock up people who aren’t going to be threatening others. I think this sentence is just. I also think it’s time this case was no longer news. So here’s hoping that Judge Gorton makes his final decision quickly and Loughlin and Giannulli can hurry up and do their time. I think I’m as ready to put this story behind me as Loughlin and Giannulli are.

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true crime

Felicity Huffman gets two weeks in “the joint”…

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.

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