Actress Felicity Huffman has been sentenced to 14 days in prison on Friday for paying $15,000 to have one of her daughter’s SAT scores altered. The Desperate Housewives actress is the first of the parents involved in the college admissions scandal to be sentenced when she appeared in front of Judge Indira Talwani in a federal courtroom in Boston. In addition to the 14 days, Huffman must serve 12 months of supervised release, 250 hours of community service, and pay a fine of $30,000. She must self-report to prison by Oct. 25.
Huffman arrived for sentencing with her husband, William H. Macy, walking into the courtroom holding his hand. Before sentencing, she addressed the judge in tears, and is reported saying, “I am deeply sorry to the parents, students, colleges and universities who have been impacted by my actions. I am sorry to my daughter Sophia, my daughter Georgia, and to my husband Bill. I have betrayed them all.” She also apologized to “the students who work hard every day to get into college and to their parents who make tremendous sacrifices supporting their children.”
While Huffman was not among the worst offenders charged in the scandal, Judge Talwani stressed, “She knew what she was doing was wrong and did take many steps to facilitate the scheme. She knew it was fraud. Trying to be a good mother doesn’t excuse this.” Following the sentencing, Huffman issued a statement, saying, “I accept the court’s decision today without reservation. I have always been prepared to accept whatever punishment Judge Talwani imposed. 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.”
Huffman’s punishment is little more than a slap on the wrist. According to Yahoo Entertainment, the federal sentencing guidelines for conspiracy to commit mail fraud and honest services fraud is “between zero and six months in prison…,” and because she took a plea deal, she avoided an additional charge. Prosecutors had asked that the actress be sentenced to a month in prison, saying that the actress acted “out of a sense of entitlement…”, while attorneys on Huffman’s side argued that because this was her first offence, she didn’t deserve to spend time behind bars. The sentencing handed down to Huffman is on the low end of the federal sentencing guidelines.
Compare that to the case of Tonya McDowell from 2011. McDowell, a homeless and unemployed woman, was sentenced to 5 years in prison for enrolling her 5-year-old son in a school outside her listed district. Since Huffman’s sentencing, McDowell’s case has gained renewed attention for the disparity between the two punishments handed down. McDowell, a homeless black woman, being sentenced more harshly than Huffman, a wealthy white woman, for a much less severe crime highlights a broken and racist criminal justice system.
Two weeks in prison can hardly be considered justice for the severity of Huffman’s crime. She painted herself as a victim, but she knew what she was doing was wrong. She used her privilege to exploit the education system to buy her daughter a spot in college but at the cost of another student’s hard-earned opportunity.
(Image: Nic Antaya for The Boston Globe via Getty Images)