United States

Felicity Huffman Released Early From Prison

Huffman was sentenced last month to 14 days in prison, a $30,000 fine, 250 hours of community service and a supervised year of release

Actress Felicity Huffman was released Friday morning from a federal prison in California two days before the end of a two-week sentence for her role in the nationwide college admissions cheating scheme.

The "Desperate Housewives" star was released from the low-security prison for women because under prison policy, inmates scheduled for weekend release are let out on Friday, the U.S. Bureau of Prisons said. She served her sentence at the Federal Correctional Institution in Dublin, California, to be near family.

Huffman was sentenced last month to 14 days in prison, a $30,000 fine, 250 hours of community service and a supervised year of release. The 56-year-old Oscar nominee had pleaded guilty in May to conspiracy and fraud for paying $15,000 to boost her older daughter's SAT test scores.

Huffman gave an emotional statement in a Boston courtroom before her sentencing on Sept. 13.

"I was frightened, I was stupid and I was so wrong. I am deeply ashamed of what I have done," the actress said.

She reiterated that sentiment in a public statement shortly after the sentencing, saying she accepted it "without reservation" and apologizing to students who worked hard to get into college, as well as their parents. 

"My hope now is that my family, my friends and my community will forgive me for my actions," she said in the statement.

A representative for Huffman did not immediately reply to a request for comment from the actress on Friday.

Huffman's sentence was greater than what her lawyers asked for — no time behind bars — but less than the prosecutors' request for a month in prison.

Lesser penalties, including probation, would have meant little to someone with "a large home in the Hollywood Hills with an infinity pool," prosecutors said in a Sept. 6 filing. 

Huffman's lawyers had said she should get a year of probation, 250 hours of community service and a $20,000 fine. They said that she was only a "customer" in the scheme and that, in other cases of academic fraud, only the ringleaders have gone to prison.

In deliberating the sentence, U.S. District Judge Indira Talwani said, "The outrage is that in a system that is already so distorted by money and privilege ... you took the step of obtaining one more advantage to put your child ahead."

Huffman's husband, actor William H. Macy, had submitted a letter of support to the judge describing how Huffman has been a wonderful mother who has also occasionally struggled finding the right balance between her instincts and experts' recommendations. 

In her own letter to the judge, Huffman wrote that, "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."

The amount Huffman paid is relatively low compared with other bribes alleged in the scheme. Some parents are accused of paying up to $500,000 to get their children into elite schools by having them labeled as recruited athletes for sports they didn't even play.

In the Sept. 4 letter asking for leniency, Huffman said she turned to the scheme because her daughter's low math scores jeopardized her dream of going to college and pursuing a career in acting. She now carries "a deep and abiding shame," she said.

Prosecutors countered that Huffman knew the scheme was wrong but chose to participate anyway. They said she wasn't driven by need or desperation, "but by a sense of entitlement, or at least moral cluelessness."

Among those still fighting the charges are actress Lori Loughlin and her fashion designer husband, Mossimo Giannulli, who are accused of paying to get their two daughters admitted to the University of Southern California as fake athletes.

Authorities say it's the biggest college admissions case ever prosecuted by the Justice Department, with a total of 51 people charged.

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