Ignorance isn't always bliss.
During Andy Cohen's special Watch What Happens Live interview with Teresa Giudice and Joe Giudice, the host asked the Real Housewives of New Jersey star why she'd previously accepted a plea agreement that could have sent her to jail for 27 months. The mother of four replied matter-of-factly, "I didn't understand that part."
Teresa claimed that her lawyer did not tell her what the plea deal could potentially entail. "I didn't fully understand it," she said. "I thought my lawyer was going to fight for me. I mean, that's what lawyers do. I don't know. That's why you hire an attorney. You put it in their hands. I mean, whatever they wanted from me—believe me—I followed their direction. Whatever they wanted, I gave them. I'm not trying to hide anything." Teresa, 42, said she was "shocked" that the judge had admonished her and Joe for the "inconsistencies and omissions" in their financial disclosure paperwork. "Whatever I needed to do, I would have [done]," she said. "After I left court, I left court. I never spoke to my attorneys. It was done."
"The judge made a decision," Teresa reiterated. "It was done."
Joe didn't think his wife would go to jail, especially after he pleaded guilty. "I even took all blame and full responsibility for everything. It wasn't like she really had a part...in my businesses. Whatever," he said.
The former pizza parlor owner, who was indicted on 41 charges of fraud in 2013, even admitted that he didn't even "know how many damn counts we had." Still, he admitted to using Teresa in his fraudulent schemes. "In court, your attorney asked for leniency because Joe handled the finances. What role did you play in this? How aware were you in what was going on? Were you just signing what was given to you?" Andy asked Teresa. The star replied, "This was before Housewives, and whatever Joe told me to sign, I signed." Her husband added that he would hand her "whatever the bank gave me for her to sign."
Joe became defensive after Andy asked about false loans and fake W-2 forms. "All right, whatever! I was taking out false loans," he admitted. "They were handing me the paperwork. Whatever the forms were, she had better credit. So, we used her. She never even came to closings—she's never been to closings!"
Joe added, "She might of signed one document."
He then admitted, "Basically, I would get the paper work, [get her to] sign it, and it would be done."
Teresa insisted she "was not trying to keep up with the Joneses," as the judge said in court, saying, "I work on the Housewives. I get paid if I wanna go buy something...I'm not trying to spend money that I don't have." She also explained what she meant when she told the court, "It's time for me to wake up."
"I do need to read things before I sign them. I do need to understand things before I sign," said Teresa, whose business ventures include cookbooks and hair products. "I'm a trustworthy person and sometimes I take what other people say, and I just believe them. I trust them and I can't do that anymore...I gotta make sure I fully understand something or fully read it, or find a lawyer—like a contract lawyer—that can help me, because I don't read contracts everyday, so I wanna get better at that."
The couple's eldest daughter, 13-year-old Gia Giudice, knows what's happening.
Gia's sisters—Gabriella Giudice, 9, Milania Giudice, 8, and Audriana Giudice, 5—have not yet been told that their mother will begin a 15-month jail sentence on Jan. 5, or that their father will serve 41 months upon Teresa's return home. "They don't know anything," Teresa said. Still, they know something's up. "Actually, Milania came up to me while I was in bed yesterday and said, 'Do you have something to say to me?' And I said, 'Like what?'" Plus, "Gabriella gave me a kiss this morning," Teresa said of daughter, who's typically "not that affectionate." She added, "So, she gave me a kiss and came up to me. I love that, because my Gabriella, she's so good."
How will Teresa tell her girls? "I'm not going to say something like, 'Mommy's going somewhere.' I want Joe to come with the girls to come see me," she said. "But...I'm grateful to the judge, because I know that she could have taken us yesterday if she wanted to. Or she could have taken us both, or taken me."
The second part of the Watch What Happens Live special airs Thursday on Bravo.
(E! and Bravo are both part of the NBCUniversal family.)