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Felicity Huffman says college admissions scandal was ‘only option’ to help her daughter

Actress Felicity Huffman exits the courthouse after facing charges for allegedly conspiring to commit mail fraud and other charges in the college admissions scandal at the John Joseph Moakley United States Courthouse in Boston on April 3, 2019.    (Joseph Prezioso/AFP/GETTY IMAGES NORTH AMERICA/TNS)
By Alexandra Del Rosario Los Angeles Times

LOS ANGELES — Felicity Huffman knows she took extreme and illegal measures to ensure her daughter’s academic success. But the actor says that she “felt like I would be a bad mother if I didn’t do it.”

The “Desperate Housewives” star was among the numerous high-profile parents caught up in the “Varsity Blues” college admissions scandal of 2019 spearheaded by private consultant William “Rick” Singer. More than four years after pleading guilty to paying $15,000 to Singer to inflate her daughter’s SAT score, Huffman has broken her silence on the scandal.

“It felt like I had to give my daughter a chance at a future,” she told ABC7’s Marc Brown in an interview that aired Thursday. “So it was sort of like my daughter’s future, which meant I had to break the law.”

Huffman, who shares two daughters with “Shameless” star William H. Macy, said she had to step in after daughter Sophia struggled to perform well with her SAT exams. She said she connected with Singer, who said her daughter would not get into any of the colleges she wanted to attend.

She said she believed Singer. In 2017, the consultant met with the Hollywood pair and explained how the scheme worked. He said he “controlled” a private school in West Hollywood where Huffman’s daughter would take the exam. Singer’s accomplice, Mark Riddell, would proctor the exam and correct their daughter’s answers after she finished the test.

“So when he slowly started to present the criminal scheme it seemed like… that was the only option to give my daughter a future,” Huffman continued.

The prosecution said in 2019 that Huffman’s daughter, who the actor said was diagnosed with a learning disability, scored 400 points higher than when she took the preliminary SAT a year earlier.

Huffman told ABC7 that she thought it was a “hoax” when the FBI “woke my daughters up at gunpoint” and detained her. In May 2019, Huffman pleaded guilty in a Boston courtroom for a fraud conspiracy charge. She was sentenced to 14 days behind bars. In a statement at the time, Huffman said, “I broke the law.”

The Oscar-nominated “Transamerica” star, 60, served 11 days in the Federal Correctional Institution in Dublin. She also paid a $30,000 fine and served 250 hours of community service under Los Angeles nonprofit A New Way of Life, founded by activist Susan Burton. The actor coordinated exercise groups with women in South L.A. and remained on the organization’s Board of Directors even after she completed her community service.

“Huffman is one of the most beautiful people I’ve met in my lifetime,” Burton said. “I know that she’s had a hiccup. But it’s not [about] the hiccup, it’s how you come through.”

The actor echoed her sentiments from her 2019 statement and apologized to the academic community and the students and families “that sacrificed and worked really hard to get where they’re going legitimately.”

Brown reported that after the scandal, Huffman’s daughter retook the SAT and was admitted to Carnegie Mellon, where she studies drama.