Brow Beat

Felicity Huffman Worried She’d Be a “Bad Mother” if She Didn’t Pay $15,000 to Rig Daughter’s SAT Scores

Felicity Huffman.
Actress Felicity Huffman heads into court in Boston on May 13. Joseph Prezioso/Getty Images

As she awaits sentencing for her role in the college admissions scandal that made headlines earlier this year, Felicity Huffman has written a letter to the judge explaining what led her to pay thousands of dollars to have her daughter’s SAT score altered. Huffman pleaded guilty in May to honest services fraud for “donating” $15,000 to a fake charity used by William “Rick” Singer, the organizer behind a massive scheme to get students into prestigious colleges by bribing college officials and tampering with test results. Prosecutors recommend Huffman spend a month in prison—down from the 4–10 months they previously recommended—and pay $20,000 in fines. She is scheduled to be sentenced on Friday.

“I didn’t go shopping for a college counselor to find out how to rig a SAT score,” Huffman tells Indira Talwani, a federal judge in the District of Massachusetts, where the case is being tried. “I didn’t even know such a thing existed.” Instead, Huffman says she initially hired Singer to legitimately advise her two daughters, both of whom have learning disabilities, and was told that her older daughter’s low math scores would prevent her from being admitted to a program to study theater. Huffman claims she was then “shocked” when Singer proposed having a test proctor correct her daughter’s SAT answers and that it took six weeks for her to make up her mind before she ultimately agreed to the scheme—about which her daughter apparently knew nothing.

“As warped as this sounds now, I honestly began to feel that maybe I would be a bad mother if I didn’t do what Mr. Singer was suggesting,” Huffman writes.

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. 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. When my daughter looked at me and asked with tears streaming down her face “Why didn’t you believe in me? Why didn’t you think I could do it on my own?” I had no adequate answer for her. I could only say, “I am sorry. I was frightened and I was stupid.”

Huffman’s husband, William H. Macy, echoed many of the same sentiments in another letter to the judge, praising Huffman as a parent but noting that motherhood has always “frightened” her. “She’s struggled to find the balance between what the experts say, and her common sense,” he writes, noting that, ironically, the program his daughter was most interested in doesn’t even require SAT scores. According to the criminal complaint, Macy was also party to Singer’s plan but, unlike his wife, he has not been charged with a crime, for reasons that remain unclear.

Macy says the scandal has taken the greatest toll on their daughter, who “has nightmares from the FBI agents waking her that morning with guns drawn” and that the whole family is in therapy. “I know you know this your honor, but those girls still need their mom,” he concludes, writing that “every good thing in my life is because of Felicity Huffman.”

Macy’s letter is one of 27 character references submitted by Huffman’s team ahead of her sentencing later this week. In another letter, Huffman’s former Desperate Housewives co-star Eva Longoria writes that Huffman stood up for her when she was “bullied” by one of the other actresses and convinced the rest of the cast to negotiate their salaries as a group, to Longoria’s benefit: “I would not have survived those 10 years if it wasn’t for the friendship of Felicity.”