Actress Lori Loughlin and her fashion designer husband Mossimo Giannulli accused federal prosecutors of concealing evidence in the college bribery scheme case even though the evidence could help bolster the couple’s defense.
“The government appears to be concealing exculpatory evidence that helps show that both defendants believed all of the payments they made would go to USC itself—for legitimate, university-approved purposes—or to other legitimate charitable causes. The government’s failure to disclose this information is unacceptable, and this court should put a stop to it,” read the motion, which was filed at the U.S. District Court in Massachusetts.
“If, for example, USC knew of Singer’s operation and accepted donations to the university from Singer’s clients as legitimate, then not only was there no bribery at USC, but also no fraud conspiracy at all.”
The statement was submitted by Sean Berkowitz, who is representing Loughlin and Giannulli.
Federal prosecutors had not responded as of Monday morning.
Loughlin and Giannulli were charged in March with conspiracy to commit fraud. They have since been hit with two new charges: conspiracy to commit money laundering and conspiracy to commit bribery as prosecutors ratchet up pressure on those who have not pleaded guilty in the investigation.
William “Rick” Singer pleaded guilty in March to racketeering conspiracy and other charges and was cooperating with prosecutors. Phone calls and emails to and from Singer were submitted as part of the case against 33 parents and others initially charged in the scheme, including multiple pieces of correspondence between Singer and Loughlin or Giannulli.
Singer was accused of funneling bribes from parents to employees at various colleges, who got college applicants designated as athletic recruits despite a lack of competitive experience in sports. Loughlin and Giannulli allegedly paid $500,000 to get their two daughters designated as crew recruits to smooth their entry into the University of Southern California (USC).
While many who were charged have pleaded guilty, Donna Heinel, a former senior associate athletic director at the USC, pleaded not guilty. Heinel is accused of taking money from Singer and falsifying application histories to get children designated as athletic recruits.
Giannulli and Loughlin hope to show they’re innocent “by showing that they understood both sets of payments to be legitimate donations and did not understand or intend that either set of payments would be used to directly or indirectly bribe Heinel,” according to the newly filed court documents.
“Singer’s representations to his clients regarding payments to the University of Southern California, as well as all information about USC’s knowledge of Singer’s operation. More fundamentally, the government is applying a flawed disclosure standard that systematically deprives Giannulli and Loughlin of information necessary to prepare their case and ensure a fair trial,” the couple’s attorney wrote in the filing.
“The government’s failures directly threaten Giannulli and Loughlin’s constitutional rights to a fair trial and due process of law.”