By Nate Raymond
BOSTON (Reuters) – A federal judge on Thursday said actress Lori Loughlin in October will be among eight parents accused of participating in a vast U.S. college admissions bribery and fraud scheme to face the first trial to result from the scandal.
The “Full House” star, along with her fashion designer husband, Mossimo Giannulli, are among 15 parents fighting charges brought by federal prosecutors in Boston stemming from the U.S. college admissions scandal.
U.S. District Judge Nathaniel Gorton said the first group of parents would face trial on Oct. 5, while the remaining ones would go on trial on Jan. 11.
Loughlin’s co-defendants at trial will include Gamal Abdelaziz, former president of Wynn Resorts Ltd’s Macau subsidiary, and Robert Zangrillo, founder of the private investment firm Dragon Global.
Prosecutors have accused 53 people of participating in a scheme in which parents conspired with a California college admissions consultant to use bribery and other forms of fraud to secure the admission of their children to top schools.
The consultant, William “Rick” Singer, pleaded guilty last March to charges he facilitated cheating on college entrance exams and helped bribe university sports coaches to present his clients’ children as fake athletic recruits.
Prosecutors allege that Loughlin and Giannulli agreed with Singer to pay $500,000 in bribes to have their two daughters named as fake recruits to the University of Southern California crew team.
Ahead of Thursday’s hearing, lawyers for Loughlin and Giannulli asked Gorton to delay setting a trial, citing “devastating” new evidence – personal notes from Singer – that they said prosecutors wrongly withheld until now.
They said the evidence supports the couple’s claims that they believed their payments were legitimate donations that would go to the university, not bribes.
In the notes, Singer said the FBI told him to “tell a fib” by saying he told his clients their payments were bribes, not donations.
“It is exonerating information,” the couple’s attorney, William Trach, said in court.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Eric Rosen disputed that prosecutors wrongly withheld the evidence, saying Singer’s lawyer until recently claimed they were covered by attorney-client privilege.
Rosen also disputed that the notes were exonerating, saying calling the payments a donation does not mean they were not a “quid pro quo.”
Judge Gorton said he considered the defense’s claims “very serious” but said he would take them up later.
“This case needs to be resolved expeditiously by trial or otherwise,” he said.
(Reporting by Nate Raymond in Boston; Editing by Chizu Nomiyama, Bill Berkrot and Jonathan Oatis)