Brow Beat

Felicity Huffman Sentenced to 14 Days in Prison for College Admissions Scheme

Actress Felicity Huffman is escorted by her husband, actor William H. Macy, out of the John Joseph Moakley United States Courthouse in Boston. They are wearing dress clothes.
Actress Felicity Huffman, escorted by her husband, William H. Macy, exits the John Joseph Moakley United States Courthouse on Friday in Boston, where she was sentenced for her role in the college admissions scandal. Joseph Prezioso/Getty Images

A judge sentenced Felicity Huffman—Desperate Housewives star and recurring cast member in various Aaron Sorkin projects—to 14 days in prison for her role in the sprawling college admissions scandal. The sentence, which amounts to nearly half a month of jail time, depending on the month, also came with a fine larger than the one recommended by federal prosecutors.

Huffman appeared in court Friday in the company of her brother, Moore Huffman Jr., and her husband, William H. Macy, star of Showtime’s Shameless and an Oscar-nominated character actor, best known for his role as a small time criminal in the 1996 Coen brothers’ film Fargo.

Judge Indira Talwani, presiding over the United States District Court of Massachusetts, additionally ordered that Huffman serve 250 hours of community service and pay a fine of $30,000. This despite a sentencing memo filed last Friday, in which attorneys for the Department of Justice had recommended a fine of only $20,000—approximately the $19,500-sticker price of a 1987 Oldsmobile Cutlass Calais, in 1987 dollars, plus $500 for the factory-direct TruCoat sealant to protect the vehicle’s finish from metal oxidation, as well as chips and scratches.

“Trying to be a good mother doesn’t excuse this,” Talwani said in her verdict. “The outrage in this case is a system that is already so distorted by money and privilege in the first place. … You took the step of having one more advantage to put your child ahead.”

Huffman had been caught paying $15,000 to an admissions consultant as part of a scheme to enlist an SAT exam proctor to correct her daughter’s answers in 2017, a crime for which Huffman pleaded guilty to one count of “conspiracy to commit mail fraud” in court in April. She was among 33 parents indicted in a far-reaching FBI investigation into corruption of the admissions process at elite institutions, dubbed Operation Varsity Blues. It is reportedly the largest investigation of its kind ever to be pursued by the U.S. Department of Justice.

While Huffman’s defense attorney, Martin F. Murphy, had asked the court to grant only a sentence of one year’s probation and 250 hours of community service, prosecutors were adamant in their recommendation for jail time, proposing a sentence of one month.

“A message must be sent and imprisonment is the only way to send that message,” Assistant U.S. Attorney Eric Rosen argued. “In prison everyone wears the same clothes. Prison is the great leveler.”

In a letter written for the court, Huffman’s husband, Macy, attempted to convey the serious punitive and deterring consequences already endured as a result of the trial, claiming that his wife has been offered no new roles or audition opportunities since the scandal hit papers.

“Felicity’s only interest now,” he wrote, “is figuring out how to make amends and help her daughters heal and move on.”

Prosecutors however voiced skepticism that these social ramifications would be sufficiently severe or long-lasting as to merit a lighter sentence.

“She is extraordinarily talented,” Rosen said. “She’ll be just fine.”