Former La Jolla TV Exec Sentenced in USC Admissions Bribery Case

By City News Service
City News Service
City News Service
December 9, 2021 Updated: December 9, 2021

SAN DIEGO—A former La Jolla media executive who paid more than $500,000 to get her children into prestigious universities as part of the wide-ranging college admissions bribery scandal was sentenced Dec. 9 to six weeks in prison, plus one year of home confinement.

Elisabeth Kimmel pleaded guilty earlier this year to a federal charge of conspiracy to commit mail and wire fraud and received the agreed-upon sentence reached through the plea deal.

According to court records, she has been ordered to self-surrender by Jan. 12 to begin her custodial term. In addition to custody, Kimmel will be on two years of supervised release—half of which includes home confinement—and received a $250,000 fine.

Kimmel previously owned KFMB in San Diego until the station was sold to Tegna in 2018.

College admission scandal Kimmel
Elisabeth Kimmel, the former owner and president of Midwest Television, facing charges in a nationwide college admissions cheating scheme, arrives at the federal courthouse in Boston, Massachusetts, U.S., March 29, 2019. (Brian Snyder/Reuters)

Prosecutors said Kimmel paid $275,000 to get her daughter into Georgetown University and $250,000 to facilitate her son’s admission into the University of Southern California (USC). In both instances, her children were falsely admitted to the schools as athletic recruits.

Prosecutors allege Georgetown tennis coach Gordon Ernst arranged for Kimmel’s daughter to get a tennis admission slot, though she didn’t play for the tennis team in any of her four years at the university. According to the prosecution’s sentencing memorandum, other students in the daughter’s high school class were denied admission to the school despite having higher GPAs and standardized test scores.

Kimmel’s son was admitted as a pole vault recruit, with his application describing him as “one of the top pole vaulters in the state of California,” though his high school had no record that he ever took part in pole vaulting or track and field.

According to the complaint filed in 2019, Kimmel’s son apparently expressed confusion when an adviser at his USC orientation asked him about being a track athlete.

The prosecution’s sentencing papers state, “Despite a privileged upbringing, a net worth totaling hundreds of millions of dollars, and degrees from two of the most prestigious academic institutions in the world—including a law degree—the defendant chose repeatedly to break the law, and
to buy her children opportunities they did not deserve. She knew better; but she chose, again and again, to cheat and lie.”

In Kimmel’s sentencing papers, her attorneys wrote that she was “intensely remorseful” and “mortified at her own involvement in this scandal and the harm it has caused.”

The defense filing states that the scheme’s mastermind, William “Rick” Singer, “warped her thinking” and that Kimmel was not aware of all of the details involved in the scheme, yet “went along with Singer’s fraudulent plan.”

Singer pleaded guilty in early 2019 but has yet to be sentenced. Ernst pleaded guilty in October and is set to be sentenced early next year.