According to multiple reports, actress Lori Loughlin and her husband Mossimo Giannulli are planning to plead ignorance in response to charges related to their college bribery case.
The famous couple have been accused of conspiracy to commit fraud and money laundering — charges which could result in significant prison time. A source familiar with the case told People that the embattled duo say they simply didn't fully understand all the "legalities" of the situation and were just doing what so many other people have done: what it takes to make sure their kids go to good schools.
"You read the complaint and they look like criminal masterminds," the source told the outlet. "But they really didn’t know the legalities of what was going on. They’re not lawyers and they’re not experts. They were parents who simply wanted to make sure that their daughters got into a good school."
The couple believes their actions are similar to those of other parents, the source said. "Calling in favors, donating money to the alumni association, hiring consultants. Those are all things that parents do," the source told People. "And so they gave money to this consultant, not entirely knowing everything that was going to be done. When it all fell apart, nobody was as surprised as they were that they were in trouble. She never intended to break any laws, and if she did, it was inadvertent."
TMZ published a similar report Wednesday, citing "sources familiar with the case." The sources said the lawyers plan to stress that their only intent was "to generally get their daughters into USC by using a 'facilitator' who got hundreds of other students into colleges."
Their "basic defense," TMZ reports, is that "colleges have horse-traded with relatives of prospective students for decades ... e.g., fund the wing of a school building and your child will miraculously get accepted. It's not only been tolerated by many schools ... it's aggressively encouraged by some of the schools, and parents know it."
The outlet's sources also emphasized the couple's alleged ignorance about what exactly the man at the center of the bribery scandal, Rick Singer, was planning to do with their money. "Our sources say ... lawyers for Lori and Mossimo Giannulli didn't take a plea early on because they believe they have a solid defense on several fronts," TMZ reports. "First, ringleader Rick Singer did not tell them how he would use the $500k to get their daughters into the school."
TMZ notes one "big problem" with that defense: the couple allegedly paid at least $100,000 directly to an assistant athletic director.
Unlike Loughlin and Giannulli, "Desperate Housewives" actress Felicity Huffman pleaded guilty to her charges. "I am in full acceptance of my guilt, and with deep regret and shame over what I have done, I accept full responsibility for my actions and will accept the consequences that stem from those actions," she told the court in early April. "I am ashamed of the pain I have caused my daughter, my family, my friends, my colleagues and the educational community. I want to apologize to them."
Huffman also apologized "to the students who work hard every day to get into college, and to their parents who make tremendous sacrifices to support their children and do so honestly," as well as her daughter, whom she said, "knew absolutely nothing about my actions."