Six months after her arrest in the college admissions scandal, Felicity Huffman has learned her fate.
On Friday in a Massachusetts court, the Oscar-nominated actress was sentenced to a 14 days in prison, plus supervised release for one year, 250 hours of community service and a $30,000 fine for mail fraud and honest services mail fraud. She is the first parent among more than 40 to be sentenced in an alleged $25 million racketeering scheme to help wealthy people get their children into elite universities.
Huffman remained composed as Judge Indira Talwani handed down the sentence. Her husband William H. Macy, who accompanied her to court, remained stoic. The actress has six weeks to report to a federal prison to begin her jail sentence.
"I don't think anyone wants to be going to prison," the judge said. "I do think this is the right sentence here. You move forward and you can rebuild your life after this. You pay your dues."
Just before her sentencing, Huffman had told the judge she was "deeply sorry."
"I take full responsibility for my actions and as a first step for making amends for my crime, I will accept whatever punishment you deem appropriate," she said.
The racketeering scheme is the largest in U.S. history. Its mastermind, William "Rick" Singer of the Edge College & Career Network, pleaded guilty in March to racketeering charges. He allegedly arranged for Sofia Macy, Huffman and Macy's eldest daughter, to take the SAT test at a test center where a proctor was paid to administer the exam and secretly correct wrong answers. A month later, the couple allegedly made a $15,000 "purported charitable contribution" to Singer's charity, which the FBI claims was used to launder money.
"Huffman later made arrangements to pursue the scheme a second time, for her younger daughter, before deciding not to do so," the affidavit in support of the criminal complaint read.
"On the way to the testing center, I thought to myself, 'Turn around, turn the car around," Huffman told the judge in court on Friday, getting emotional. "One of the hardest things was after my arrest, my daughter said, 'I don't know who you are anymore.' I am so sorry Sophia. I was frightened, I was stupid and I was so wrong. I am deeply ashamed of what I have done. I have inflicted more damage than i could have imagined. I realize not that love and truth must go hand and hand."
Huffman later said in a statement, "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."
"I would like to apologize again to my daughter, my husband, my family and the educational community for my actions," she said. "And I especially want to apologize to the students who work hard every day to get into college, and to their parents who make tremendous sacrifices supporting their children. I have learned a lot over the last six months about my flaws as a person. My goal now is to serve the sentence that the court has given me. I look forward to doing my community service hours and making a positive impact on my community. I also plan to continue making contributions wherever I can well after those service hours are completed."
She added, "I can promise you that in the months and years to come that I will try and live a more honest life, serve as a better role model for my daughters and family and continue to contribute my time and energies wherever I am needed. My hope now is that my family, my friends and my community will forgive me for my actions."
In addition to Macy, who has not been been charged, about a dozen friends and members of Huffman's family also attended the hearing, reports said.
The prosecutor had sought a month in jail for Huffman, saying, "There is no excuse for what she did." Her lawyer had requested a year of probation, 250 hours of community service and a fine.
In May, the star pleaded guilty a month after issuing a public apology accepting "full responsibility" for her actions. "I am pleading guilty to the charge brought against me by the United States Attorney's Office. 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 said in a statement at the time. "I am ashamed of the pain I have caused my daughter, my family, my friends, my colleagues and the educational community."
Huffman continued, "I want to apologize to them and, especially, I want to apologize 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 she concluded, the actress noted, "My daughter knew absolutely nothing about my actions, and in my misguided and profoundly wrong way, I have betrayed her. This transgression toward her and the public I will carry for the rest of my life. My desire to help my daughter is no excuse to break the law or engage in dishonesty."
Ahead of the sentencing, the actor and several colleagues penned letters to the judge on behalf of Huffman. The actress also wrote her own letter, explaining that she had not sought out a college counselor to "find out how to rig a SAT score." According to Huffman, instead, she was looking for college application guidance and Singer was recommended.
"Sophia was passionate about majoring in theatre, but over time, Mr. Singer told me that her test scores were too low and, if her math SAT scores didn't rise dramatically, none of the colleges she was interested in would even consider her auditions," she explained in the letter. "I honestly didn't and don't care about my daughter going to a prestigious college. I just wanted to give her a shot at being considered for a program where her acting talent would be the deciding factor. This sounds hollow now,, [sic] but, in my mind, I knew that her success or failure in theatre or film wouldn't depend on her math skills."
"I didn't want my daughter to be prevented from getting shot at auditioning and doing what she loves because she can't do math," she continued. "After nearly a year of working with Mr. Singer and his tutors, he told me it wasn't enough. Sophia's math scores were not measuring up. We still had a serious problem and, according to him, he had the solution. He told me, 'We will make sure she gets the scores she needs,' by having a proctor bump up her scores after she takes the test. Sophia would never know and she could, 'Concentrate on what really matters: here [sic] grades and her auditions.' He said he did it for many of his students."
After six weeks of "going back and forth," "I finally agreed to cheating on Sophia's SAT scores and also considered doing the same thing for Georgia. But the decision haunted me terribly; I knew it was not right. I finally came to my senses and told Mr. Singer to stop the process for Georgia," Huffman wrote.
"In my desperation to be a good mother I talked myself into believing that all I was doing was giving my daughter a fair shot," she said. "I see the irony in that statement now because what I have done is the opposite of fair. I have broken the law, deceived the educational community, betrayed my daughter, and failed my family."