Probation report could help Felicity Hoffman

0

BOSTON — Probation officials said there was “no victim” or any “actual or intended loss” in Felicity Huffman’s role in the college admissions scandal, court documents revealed Wednesday.

While the U.S. Probation and Pretrial Services System’s report does not explicitly recommend a sentence for Huffman, the report clearly came down on the side of the Oscar-nominated actress and her bid to avoid any time behind bars.

- Advertisement -

U.S. District Court Judge Indira Talwani is scheduled to sentence Huffman on Friday, and the U.S. Attorney’s Office has said Huffman should spend one month in jail and pay a $20,000 fine for her role in the college admissions scandal.

She tearfully pleaded guilty earlier this year to committing mail fraud and honest services fraud in connection with a $15,000 payment to have an SAT examination proctor correct one of her daughter’s answers on the test.

Probation officials said the government is incorrect in setting Huffman’s sentencing range of four months to nine months because the money she paid should not be a factor in her sentencing.

Instead, Huffman should be sentenced on a recalculated range of no jail time to four months, according to the report.

“The Probation Office maintains that there is no victim of this offense,” the report said.

“The Probation Office respectfully disagrees and maintains that there was no actual or intended loss in this case and that gain should not be used as an alternative measure of loss. Merely because someone has been convicted of an economic offense does not mean that the loss amount must be greater than zero.”

Not only do federal probation officers take prosecutors to task, they also blame some of the case’s alleged victims, specifically college board test administrators and the schools, for the scandal.

Probation officials “question what degree of responsibility lies with the schools and the testing agencies for failing to properly oversee admissions and testing processes to ensure that they were fair to all students,” according to the eight-page court document.

The probation report could bolster defense requests that Huffman should be sentenced to 250 hours community service, one year probation and a $20,000 fine — and no jail time.

The actress, who co-starred on the ABC drama “Desperate Housewives” and earned an Oscar nomination for “Transamerica,” also inquired about the same scheme for another daughter, although she never carried out that plan.

Prosecutors have written to the judge that Huffman’s conduct was “deliberate and manifestly criminal” in the nationwide scandal that also ensnared fellow Hollywood actress Lori Loughlin.

The FBI probe, dubbed “Operation Varsity Blues,” exposed how well-heeled parents paid college fixer Rick Singer to get their children into elite universities by boosting their test scores or passing them off as top athletes worthy of special admission.

Late last week, Huffman told Talwani, in a letter, that she made bad choices in a panic about her daughter’s college prospects.

“My own fears and lack of confidence, combined with a daughter who has learning disabilities often made me insecure and feel highly anxious from the beginning,” she wrote. “I was always searching for the right book or the right piece of advice that would help me help my daughters or keep me from making the mistakes that might damage their lives.”

She added: “In my blind panic, I have done the exact thing that I was desperate to avoid. I have compromised my daughter’s future, the wholeness of my family and my own integrity.”

Ezra Kaplan reported from Boston; and David K. Li from New York