First guilty plea in college admissions scandal could set precedent for case

BOSTON — The first defendants to enter a guilty plea in the college admissions scandal case could help set the bar for the rest of the parents accused in the bribery scheme.

California couple Bruce and Davina Isackson are expected to be the first set of parents to plead guilty in federal court in Boston on Wednesday morning.

The Isacksons are each facing a decade in prison, but according to USA Today, as part of their plea deal, prosecutors are asking for the "low end" of the sentencing guidelines, which includes fines, supervised release, and restitution to the IRS.

Ultimately, it all comes down to the judge.

The U.S. Attorney says the Isacksons paid alleged mastermind Rick Singer more than $600,000 in bribes to get their daughters accepted into UCLA and USC.

Charged in the same scandal are actresses Felicity Huffman and Lori Loughlin and her husband Mossimo Giannulli.

Huffman, who seems to have a plea deal lined up as well, is set to appear in court within the next couple of weeks. Wednesday's sentencing could shed some light on what's to come for her.

For some, like Loughlin and Giannulli, the cooperation of parents and coaches who have agreed to plead guilty could mean bad news.

"You can rest assured that there is going to be a new wave of indictments," said former federal prosecutor Bradley Simon. "They wouldn't need so many cooperators for existing cases. What seems to me is that these individuals who are cooperating are helping the government to make new cases," he said.

Loughlin and Giannulli are among the 19 parents still fighting the allegations who could be negatively impacted by the cooperation of other defendants.

Among those known to be working with authorities is Laura Janke, the former University of Southern California assistant women's soccer coach who was paid by consultant Rick Singer to create fake athletic profiles to make the children of "Full House" star Loughlin and a slew of other parents look like star athletes, officials say.

She could spill information about other USC figures charged in the case, including another soccer coach and athletic department official. She could also bolster the testimony of Singer, who will likely be painted by defense attorneys as a liar trying to take down the parents in order to save himself.

"If I were one of those parents, I would be very nervous about (Janke)," said Simon, now a white-collar criminal defense lawyer at Phillips Nizer LLP, of New York.

Janke agreed in 2017 to create a profile portraying Loughlin's and Giannulli's younger daughter, YouTube star Olivia Jade Giannulli, as a competitive rower, authorities say. The teenager was admitted to USC as a crew recruit even though she didn't play the sport, authorities say.

Loughlin and Giannulli, who have pleaded not guilty to paying $500,000 in bribes to get their daughters into USC, haven't publicly commented on the allegations. Janke's lawyer declined to comment Tuesday.

Since dozens of wealthy parents and coaches at elite universities were arrested in March, four defendants have signed cooperation agreements with prosecutors. Singer, along with a former Yale University coach and a man who cheated on entrance exams for students, had already been secretly working with investigators before the charges were announced.

What exactly cooperators have offered investigators remains unclear. They have all promised to testify for prosecutors, if asked, in hopes of getting a shorter prison sentence.

This is a developing story. Stay with Boston 25 News for more details as they become available.


The Associated Press contributed to this report