Parents may be taking a huge risk by pleading not guilty in college admissions scandal

By CBS News,

A growing number of parents are pleading not guilty in the massive college admissions scandal, but legal analysts said they may be taking a huge risk. Actress Lori Loughlin and her husband Mossimo Giannulli both entered not guilty pleas Monday.

Nearly two weeks after facing charges in Boston federal court, Loughlin and Giannulli made it clear they are not giving in to federal prosecutors, CBS News correspondent Don Dahler reports. The two waived their right to appear before a judge, instead submitting their not guilty pleas through two signed statements, all but ensuring a lengthy legal battle.

Loughlin and Giannulli are charged with paying $500,000 to guarantee both of their daughters’ admission into the University of Southern California. The criminal complaints against the couple detail evidence including emails, bank records and recorded phone calls.

“If they have real physical evidence against Lori Loughlin, she and her husband are going to be in for a quick guilty verdict and a big punishment,” CBS News legal analyst Rikki Klieman said.

So far, some 16 parents have decided to fight the charges. At least 13, including actress Felicity Huffman, have pleaded guilty.

Attorneys for Gregory and Amy Colburn — who are accused of paying thousands to boost their son’s SAT scores — took it a step further Monday. They filed a motion to dismiss saying, “While the government’s strategy of lumping together all of the parents into a single conspiracy has had the intended effect of creating widespread public outrage… there is no legal basis for including the Colburns.”

“What the Colburns are accusing the government of is making this broad net, this broad overreach in part to inflame the public, but it doesn’t mean that simply because you didn’t know one another that the charge should fail,” Klieman said.

A source told CBS News federal prosecutors have sent letters to some of the parents’ adult children believed to have known about the scam, indicating they could also face criminal charges. For Loughlin and her husband, legal experts said there’s still time to change their plea before they go to trial.

“If at some point, they should change their mind, the question is how much aggravation have they caused the government so far as well as looking at how they have finally come to grips with taking responsibility,” Klieman said.

Although prosecutors said many of the children were not aware of what their parents were allegedly doing, some court documents suggest that some of them were aware. In some cases, children were allegedly either on email chains or they took part in conference calls between their parents and the alleged mastermind of this scandal.