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Felicity Huffman’s Bond Set at $250,000 for Alleged College Admissions Bribe

Felicity Huffman appeared in a federal courtroom in downtown Los Angeles on Tuesday afternoon to face a charge of paying a bribe to boost her daughter’s SAT score.

Judge Alexander F. MacKinnon set her bond at $250,000. Huffman’s husband William H. Macy, who was not indicted, sat in the front row in court.

“Full House” actress Lori Loughlin was not in court, but her husband Mossimo Giannulli’s bond was set at $1 million, secured against the couple’s home. Huffman and Giannulli both later posted bond and left the courthouse.

The next court date is set for March 29 in Boston for both Huffman and Mossimo, who surrendered their passports to the court. Both were barred from traveling outside the continental United States.

Wearing a dark sweater and glasses, Huffman answered “yes” when asked if she understood the charges. Her attorney Evan Jenness had asked that she be released on her own recognizance, but the request was refused. Federal prosecutor Adam Schleifer argued that a $250,000 bond was warranted, noting that her real estate assets are valued at more than $20 million, in addition to $4 million in liquid securities.

Schleifer also argued that Huffman’s alleged crime “bespeaks dishonesty, which is something the government takes seriously.”

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Huffman shook her head in response.

Schleifer pressed the argument further, claiming that Huffman’s “conduct shows a complete willingness to violate norms of conduct, and part with money to take a shortcut.” Therefore, he argued, a substantial bond amount would be needed to secure her appearance at future court dates.

Jenness countered that Huffman is a mother with substantial ties to the community.

“This is not the kind of person who is going to become an international fugitive,” she said.

Huffman is one of 46 people charged in the largest university admissions scheme in U.S. history. Also charged are numerous CEOs, investors, and other elite professionals.

Huffman was arrested at her Los Angeles home on Tuesday morning. Although Macy was not charged in the case, the affidavit states that “Huffman and her spouse agreed to the plan.” Schleifer, the prosecutor, stated in court that Macy is “at minimum, a witness” in the case.

Loughlin was not at home on Tuesday morning, and has not yet been arrested. Authorities are working to negotiate her surrender. She, her husband, and Huffman each face a single count of mail fraud in connection with the scheme.

Loughlin and her husband are accused of paying $500,000 to get their two daughters into USC.

In all, federal prosecutors filed charges against 33 parents, some of whom allegedly paid millions of dollars to get their kids into elite universities. The scheme allegedly centered around William “Rick” Singer, a Newport Beach, Calif., admissions consultant. Singer allegedly developed a network of college coaches to help his clients get into selective universities.

Singer agreed to plead guilty in the case.

Criminal defense attorneys say the admissions scandal has few precedents. There simply haven’t been many cases like this before.

“We’re in uncharted territory here,” said Peter Elikann, a criminal defense lawyer and the author of “Superpredators: The Demonization of Our Children by the Law.” “There’s going to be some really creative lawyering and some real creative prosecuting.”

It’s unclear if the case will be heard by a jury or if a judge alone will preside. But the court of public opinion isn’t likely to be too sympathetic. College admissions touches so many people and there is a great deal of resentment about the advantages that well-to-do people have when it comes to getting their kids into the schools of their choice.

“The public could be in a hanging mood,” Elikann said. “This is about as unpopular a crime as you can get. The bottom line is people will be angry about all the good, hard-working students who did everything right and played by rules and are not in these schools because an unqualified person stole their spot.”

Some of the people indicted may strike plea bargains, where they pay fines and offer to do community service instead of letting the legal process play out. A lot will depend on how much evidence prosecutors have amassed. For Huffman and Loughlin, television actors with long careers in the public eye, being a star could be a disadvantage.

“In a high-profile case like this, it can be hard to convince prosecutors to treat clients like anyone else,” said Dmitry Gorin, a partner at Eisner Gorin LLP. “Just because someone is a celebrity, doesn’t mean they should get punished more.”

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