Updated at 4:09 p.m.
In the sweeping college admissions bribery case, actress Felicity Huffman has been sentenced to 14 days in prison, 250 hours of community service and a $30,000 fine. The judge is also requiring 12 months of supervised release.
The “Desperate Housewives" star appeared in Boston's federal court Friday. She was the first of 34 parents charged in the scheme to be sentenced.
In May, Huffman tearfully pleaded guilty, admitting that she paid $15,000 to hire a ringer to change her daughter's SAT answers. Huffman has said her daughter, who has a learning disability, was unaware of her actions.
In a letter to the judge last week, Huffman said she was desperate to give her daughter a “fair shot.”
Prosecutors had recommended Huffman serve one month in prison and pay a $20,000 fine. Huffman's lawyers said a just sentence would be a year of probation, 250 hours of community service and a $20,000 fine.
"I accept the court’s decision today without reservation. I have always been prepared to accept whatever punishment Judge Talwani imposed," Huffman said in a statement. "I broke the law. I have admitted that and I pleaded guilty to this crime. There are no excuses or justifications for my actions. Period."
The case known as Operation Varsity Blues has resurfaced questions about college access, race and privilege, and Huffman’s sentencing signals what other parents charged in the case may face.
Nearly a dozen other parents are scheduled to be sentenced after pleading guilty. So far, 15 parents have pleaded guilty, while 19, including actress Lori Loughlin and her designer husband Mossimo Gianulli, are still fighting the charges.
Tony Jack teaches at the Harvard Graduate School of Education and is author of the book "The Privileged Poor: How Elite Colleges Are Failing Disadvantaged Students." He said the idea that there is no separate system for admissions and criminal justice in this country is bogus, and the fact Huffman got such little jail time proves money talks and privilege walks.
“They are able to curate this image of, ‘I was just doing what’s best for my child,’ when other families are being torn apart for trying to give their child not a seat at an Ivy League school but access to a school where their child doesn’t have to be worried about getting shot, stabbed, bullied or beaten,” Jack said. “This is a miscarriage of justice.”
Jack dismissed the notion that participating in the bribery scheme was a victimless crime.
“By virtue of what they did to get into these schools, you stole a seat that could have been filled by someone who earned that seat,” Jack said. “They stole dreams, they stole hopes, they stole things that money cannot buy.”
Jack said even if there’s no clear victim, he thinks all parents caught up in the scheme should serve time — regardless of how much they paid to cheat — because of their intent. He said today’s sentence shows racial bias.
“We are not trying to decipher, ‘Oh you only paid $15,000 so you should get 15 days. Well, you paid $6.8 million, well you should get five years.’ They all did the exact same thing,” Jack argued. “If this was a drug case, they would do a RICO charge so quickly, because they don’t care that you were the top dog or the corner boy, they would want you in jail for as long as possible.”