I am very much of two minds where it concerns Felicity Huffman and all the other wealthy parents involved in the college admissions scam. On the one hand, how dare they cheat the system and rob other less privileged students of the opportunity to attend the college of their choice. Throw the book at her! On the other hand, the President of the United States gets away with more egregious crimes every single day of his Presidency, and there are no consequences. Moreover, the media has spent more time on the College Admissions scam than it has on mass shootings in America. Our priorities are way out of whack.
Depending on where you fall on that spectrum, the 14-day prison sentence handed down to Felicity Huffman today will either feel unjust in how light it is, or unjust in how severe it is. I think we can all agree, however, that entirely too much attention has been devoted to this story. On the other hand, it’s satisfying when rich people occasionally have to face the consequences, even if the rich person in question is an otherwise admirable figure. On the other other hand, Wall Street figures robbed taxpayers of billions of dollars and cost us hundreds of thousands of jobs in the Great Recession, and not a damn one of them spent a day behind bars, much less 14, which is how long Felicity Huffman will have to spend in prison.
The actress Felicity Huffman was sentenced to 14 days in prison for paying a college consultant $15,000 to inflate her daughter’s SAT score, becoming the first parent given a punishment in a sweeping scheme in which nearly three dozen wealthy parents are accused of using lies and bribes to smooth their children’s way into prestigious colleges.
Ms. Huffman’s sentence, which included a $30,000 fine, supervised release for a year and 250 hours of community service, was being closely watched as an indication of how harshly parents in this case would be punished. And it suggested that the judge, Indira Talwani, agreed with prosecutors that even a short term of imprisonment was necessary to send a message that wealthy parents would not get away with trying to steal admissions slots from more deserving students.
The prison sentence, the fines, and the community service are obviously warranted, but given Huffman’s status, the bigger punishment here is the humiliation she has suffered. The real shame of it all, however, are the victims: Felicity Huffman’s daughter, who did not ask her mother to cheat on her behalf, and the student whose place she would have taken had she gone to college (here, Felicity Huffman’s daughter Sofia decided to take some time off before entering college due to this scandal).