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World Lori Loughlin's attorneys argue feds are concealing evidence in college admissions scandal

04:49  15 december  2019
04:49  15 december  2019 Source:   usatoday.com

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Lori Loughlin ' s attorneys argue feds are concealing evidence in college admissions scandal . BOSTON — Attorneys for actress Lori Loughlin and her fashion designer husband Mossimo Giannulli say the Justice Department has refused to turn over all evidence in the nation' s college admissions

“Full House” star Lori Loughlin wants prosecutors to show their hand before she argues any major motions in the college admissions bribery scandal . Lawyers for the actress, her fashion designer husband Mossimo Giannulli and 15 other defendants filed joint paperwork Monday asking the judge to

Attorneys for actress Lori Loughlin and her fashion designer husband Mossimo Giannulli say the Justice Department has refused to turn over critical evidence in the nation's college admissions case and have asked a judge to intervene to force federal prosecutors to hand it over.

The celebrity couple's attorneys filed a motion Friday seeking the government to produce the material, arguing it should be included as exculpatory evidence.

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In 2019, a scandal arose over a criminal conspiracy to influence undergraduate admissions decisions at several top American universities.

Lori Loughlin departs federal court Tuesday, Aug. 27, 2019, in Boston, after a hearing in a nationwide college admissions bribery scandal . In a federal court filing on Friday, attorneys said the government has refused to produce material and evidence in the case.

Both have pleaded not guilty to federal charges for paying $500,000 (AUD$727,103) to Rick Singer, the mastermind of a sprawling college admissions cheating and bribery scheme, to get their daughters tagged as crew recruits to slip them into the University of Southern California.

They're preparing for trial next year.

The couple's legal team asked for "all information" concerning Singer's representations to his clients regarding payments to USC as well as information about "USC's knowledge of Singer's operation."

In particular, they singled out Federal Bureau of Investigation reports, known as "302 reports," that detail statements and interview notes taken during the college admissions investigation.

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Lori Loughlin ' s attorneys argue feds are concealing evidence in college admissions scandal . USA TODAY Entertainment.

Actress Lori Loughlin and her husband, fashion designer Mossimo Giannulli, could end up in legal disputes with the University of Southern California, where their daughters were accepted as an alleged part of the sweeping college admissions scandal , court records show.

Lori Loughlin et al. walking down the street talking on a cell phone: Actress Lori Loughlin (C) arrives at the court to appear before Judge M. Page Kelley to face charge for allegedly conspiring to commit mail fraud and other charges in the college admissions scandal at the John Joseph Moakley United States Courthouse in Boston, Massachusetts on April 3, 2019. (Photo by Joseph Prezioso / AFP)JOSEPH PREZIOSO/AFP/Getty Images ORIG FILE ID: AFP_1FC6UN © JOSEPH PREZIOSO, AFP/Getty Images Actress Lori Loughlin (C) arrives at the court to appear before Judge M. Page Kelley to face charge for allegedly conspiring to commit mail fraud and other charges in the college admissions scandal at the John Joseph Moakley United States Courthouse in Boston, Massachusetts on April 3, 2019. (Photo by Joseph Prezioso / AFP)JOSEPH PREZIOSO/AFP/Getty Images ORIG FILE ID: AFP_1FC6UN

Attorneys, led by Sean Berkowitz, say the documents would prove the central argument of Loughlin, Giannulli and other parents charged in the "Varsity Blues" case who have maintained their innocence — that they made "legitimate donations" to a nonprofit led by Singer, not bribes. 

"The Government’s theory in this case is that Giannulli and Loughlin knowingly bribed a rogue USC administrator in order to secure their daughters’ admission to the university," the new motion reads.

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Lori Loughlin and Felicity Huffman were among the wealthy parents accused of cheating or paying bribes to get their children into elite universities. Fifty people were charged in a college admissions scandal . “This is a case where they flaunted their wealth, sparing no expense, to cheat the system

As federal prosecutors on Tuesday brought new money laundering charges against 16 parents enmeshed in the college admissions scandal , a question hung over the sprawling case: Would anybody implicated in the scam actually serve time behind bars?

"But the Government appears to be concealing exculpatory evidence that helps show that both Defendants believed all of the payments they made would go to USC itself — for legitimate, university-approved purposes — or to other legitimate charitable causes. 

"The Government’s failure to disclose this information is unacceptable, and this Court should put a stop to it."

The U.S. Attorney's Office declined to comment. A spokesperson from USC, Leigh Hopper, did not immediately comment on the filing. 

Attorneys for other parents in the admissions scandal have been denied similar requests for the same documents.

Loughlin and Giannulli are among 36 parents accused of paying into a vast criminal network led by Singer, a college admissions consultant from California, who took payments in exchange for either tagging their children as fake athletic recruits to get them admitted into elite colleges or fixing their college entrance exam scores.

A newly charged parent agreed this week to plead guilty to paying Singer to have someone take online college courses for her son.

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Singer has pleaded guilty and cooperated with authorities. 

Loughlin and Giannulli are charged with conspiracy to commit mail and wire fraud, honest services fraud, money laundering and federal programs bribery, which was tacked on in October to parents who declined plea deals offered by prosecutors.

The couple's attorneys argue the Justice Department must prove Loughlin and Giannulli "intended" to defraud USC and that they "knew" their donations to Singer's nonprofit, the Key Worldwide Foundation, would be used to bribe a USC official, former senior associate athletic director Donna Heinel.

"At trial, Giannulli and Loughlin will help establish their innocence by showing that they understood both sets of payments to be legitimate donations and did not understand or intend that either set of payments would be used to directly or indirectly bribe Heinel," their motion reads. 

The government has argued that payments from wealthy parents to Singer produced a classic quid pro quo, with the payments serving as bribes to get their children into elite universities.

To counter, the couple's attorneys say they need "any statements by Singer as to what he precisely told his clients" about the use of their funds.

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Lori Loughlin , other parents in college admissions scandal face trial in 2020. Defense attorneys for parents said they are poring over nearly 2 million pieces of evidence in 3 million pages, turned over by the federal government during the discovery process.

They also say they need statements detailing what USC knew of Singer's operation, arguing that if they did know about the operation but accepted money anyway then the university was not bribed or defrauded. 

Attorneys for Robert Zangrillo, another parent accused of making bribes to USC, in September released emails from USC that showed the university maintained a spreadsheet that classified some applicants as "VIP" because their families made major donations to the school, were friends or had other connections.

Zangrillo’s defense team said it showed a "university-wide program at USC" where past and future donations affected a student’s admissions, meaning Zangrillo's payment of $50,000 (AUD$72,710)  to USC was a gift, not a bribe. 

Prosecutors have turned over more than 3 million pages of emails, wiretaps and other evidence to defense attorneys in the admissions case.

But at a court hearing in June, defense attorneys flagged how the government had not released FBI interviews with parents not charged in the case.

These uncharged parents told the FBI that Singer said their donations would go to athletic programs or schools, not bribes, the defense attorneys said.

Federal Magistrate Page Kelley denied the defense's request to certify the documents as exculpatory evidence. 

Loughlin and Giannulli's new court filing includes letters this past summer between their attorneys, continuing to press for the documents, and U.S. Attorney for the District of Massachusetts Andrew Lelling. 

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Attorneys for both parties didn’t immediately comment. The article noted that Georgetown, another college involved in the bribery scandal , was recently The lawyer was arguing that it shouldn’t be allowed. Loughlin and Giannulli are charged with fraud conspiracy and money laundering conspiracy

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He wrote to them that their request for information detailing how Singer represented himself to clients was a "fishing expedition" for evidence that was immaterial.

"To the extent that Singer made representations to actual or potential clients who are not defendants in this case, such representations are, on their face, irrelevant," Lelling wrote in an Oct. 31 letter.

Loughlin and Giannulli's attorney argue the government's "fundamental misunderstanding of its obligations" to turn over all evidence raises concerns about their ability to do so and suggests there could be other relevant information they're withholding. 

"The Government’s failures directly threaten Giannulli and Loughlin’s constitutional rights to a fair trial and due process of law," the attorneys say in the motion. 

Fifty-three people, including 36 parents as well as college coaches, have been charged in the college admissions case.

Thirty have either pleaded guilty or agreed to plead guilty later while the remaining 23 prepare for trial. 

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Lori Loughlin's attorneys argue feds are concealing evidence in college admissions scandal

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