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.

celebrities, law

Grasping at straws…

Ever heard this expression? It came up this morning over breakfast. Bill and I were talking about a recent news story and he said, “I think those people are ‘grasping at straws’, trying to save themselves.”

I thought about that for a moment, then decided to look up the etymology of where that phrase came from. It turns out the expression “grasping at straws” has a number of claimed sources ranging from works published in the 1300s until the 1700s. Prior to the mid 1800s, we didn’t “clutch” at straws or “grasp” at straws. Instead, we’d “catch” at straws.

“Grasping at straws” refers to a person who is drowning and grasping at anything, including flimsy reeds, to try to rescue him or herself. It’s generally inferred that a person who is “grasping at straws” is acting in desperation and futility and will be unable to save his or herself from destruction. Below is a video prepared by an erudite British gentleman who describes what “grasping at straws” means.

Telling us how it is…

I think of Lori Loughlin and her husband, Mossimo Giannulli, both of whom are currently in legal hot water because they’ve been accused of money laundering and fraud. Unlike other people involved in the so-called “Varsity Blues” case, Loughlin and Giannulli elected not to make a deal with prosecutors. They decided they didn’t want to make a deal because they were certain they would be able to convince a jury of their innocence. Lori Loughlin, after all, memorably played the ever perky “Aunt Becky” on Full House and Fuller House for years. She’s made a lot of money playing sweet, wholesome, girl next door types. It’s hard to conceive of her as a criminal.

Making a deal with the prosecutors meant Loughlin and her husband would almost definitely have to go to jail. It might have only been for a short time, given their somewhat clean legal histories. But, because they couldn’t bear the idea of going to jail, Loughlin and Giannulli have decided to take their chances with a jury trial. Now, it appears that they could do some hard time. Their situation may soon become desperate and they might now be “grasping at straws” to try to save themselves from prison.

Naturally, Hollywood has also taken an interest in this case. A made for TV movie is planned for the Lifetime network about “Varsity Blues”. I’m not surprised this is happening, given that another high profile star, Felicity Huffman of Desperate Housewives fame, is also involved in the scandal. It’s perfect fodder for the “television for women” network. Huffman and Loughlin won’t be playing themselves, though, because there’s a chance one or both of them might be behind bars.

When I think of someone who is about to become very desperate, Lori Loughlin and her husband both come to mind. While I don’t condone what they did, I do have some compassion for their situation. I’m sure being in an A list crowd like theirs is makes them believe that their daughters can’t succeed unless they go to an A list school like the University of Southern California. Loughlin has claimed it’s what any “caring mom” would do for her child, given the means. Huffman, on the other hand, was smart enough to see the writing on the wall, admit guilt, and take a deal.

Actually, I think caring moms would encourage their children to succeed on their own and make their own way. Loughin and Giannulli have two gorgeous daughters who were already succeeding in creating brands for themselves. Olivia Jade Giannulli has been particularly successful in her ad campaigns with major brands, although she’s lost business since her parents got caught in the scandal. One could argue that they didn’t even need to go to college. Olivia Jade has outright said she doesn’t care about school and is mainly there to appease her parents, who didn’t have the opportunity to go to college.

“I don’t really care about school.”

It’s tragic to me that this very beautiful young woman who already has a career was taking a coveted spot at a top university that a truly deserving student could have had. She doesn’t care about school, so she should drop out and let someone else take her place. I feel kind of sad for her, personally, too. It’s likely her parents are about to go to the big house, and they could be there for a very long time. That is sure to be a source of embarrassment and humiliation for her, especially since going to the university was her parents’ dream, not Olivia’s.

People tend to grasp at straws when they are faced with certain disaster. They look for anything and everything that might work to help them get out of whatever fine mess they’ve gotten themselves into. The vast majority of the time, grasping at straws is ineffective and leads to a swift drowning by the facts. It’s usually better to just face the music and work toward settling issues, rather than conjuring up harebrained schemes that aren’t likely to work. Lori Loughlin and her husband probably should have just bitten the bullet and taken a deal. On the other hand, who knows? Maybe this situation will end like O.J. Simpson’s first trial did. Maybe they’ll get away with bribing an official to get their daughters into prestigious USC. Maybe they’ll just get a slap on the wrist. But the odds are, this is not going to be pretty for them… and grasping at straws is going to get them nowhere.