Several defendants in the “Varsity Blues” college admissions case, including TV actress Lori Loughlin and her husband, fashion designer Mossimo Giannulli, alleged “extraordinary misconduct” by the federal government in a filing Wednesday in U.S. District Court in Boston.
Lawyers for the couple and other defendants, including Canadian Football League player turned businessman David Sidoo, said notes kept by William “Rick” Singer show that federal agents engineered “a sham . . . in an effort to ‘entrap’ Defendants and ‘nail’ them ‘at all costs,’ ” and that prosecutors hid those notes from defense attorneys, according to court papers.
The filing asks federal Judge Nathaniel M. Gorton to dismiss their indictments or to at least throw out evidence obtained through the alleged misconduct.
Singer has pleaded guilty to charges of racketeering conspiracy, tax conspiracy, money laundering, and obstruction of justice in the case and admitted to engineering the scheme to have children of wealthy parents admitted to elite colleges by falsely presenting them as athletic recruits.
More than 50 people have been ensnared in the prosecutions, including former “Desperate Housewives” star Felicity Huffman, who pleaded guilty and served an 11-day sentence.
“The notes state that agents browbeat Singer and instructed him to lie in order to elicit misleading evidence that was inconsistent with the actual facts that Singer had explained to agents,” the filing states. “As detailed in the notes, agents directed Singer not to mention on the calls that he had previously told the clients their payments would be ‘donation[s]’ that would go ‘to the [university] program [and] not the coach,’ . . . in other words, that their payments were not unlawful bribes.”
The defendants say at least two federal prosecutors saw Singer’s notes in October 2018, but “instead of investigating Singer’s assertions — or disclosing the information — the prosecution buried this evidence and repeatedly misrepresented to Defendants and the Court that it had fully complied with its” legal obligations.
They further claim that federal officials allowed Singer to delete thousands of text messages from his cellphone that could have exonerated defendants and “mounted an aggressive (and highly successful) pressure campaign against other defendants to secure guilty pleas and lengthy sentences — all while hiding key exculpatory information from defense counsel, the Probation Office, and this Court.”
A spokeswoman for US Attorney Andrew E. Lelling said Wednesday night that his office had no comment on the filing.
Attorneys for Loughlin and Giannulli raised claims of misconduct before Gorton in court last month. At that time, they filed a document alleging that the government had only hours earlier turned over the notes from Singer’s iPhone.
Loughlin and Giannulli’s lawyers argued that if the couple believed they were making legitimate donations to the University of Southern California, they thus lacked the intent to knowingly defraud the school, a key element necessary for conviction.
The disclosure of Singer’s notes should have been made no later than 30 days after indictment under court rules, the lawyers said.