BOSTON (CBSLA/AP) — A federal judge in Boston ruled Tuesday that actress Lori Loughlin and her husband Mossimo Giannulli can continue using a law firm that recently represented USC.
The couple appeared in court on Tuesday to settle a dispute over their choice of lawyers in the college admissions bribery case.
Prosecutors argued that it poses a potential conflict of interest. The 55-year-old Loughlin and 56-year-old Giannulli say the firm’s work for USC was unrelated to the admissions case and was handled by different lawyers.
“It’s difficult to think about how the same law firm could represent USC, and each defendant, and for their never to have a conflict arise,” legal analyst Steve Meister explained to CBSN LA Tuesday.
Meister also discussed how the couple could also face a conflict of interest if they decide each of their defenses will be different.
“And that can be problematic, if you’re ever gonna have two clients, even husband and wife, whose defenses might be different from one another,” Meister said. “And if your clients’ defenses are gonna go in different directions, it might become impossible for that firm to represent either party.”
Meister said federal prosecutors want to avoid conflicts of interest because it could then taint a potential conviction.
“If there’s ever a conviction obtained, and the defendants appeal saying there was a fatal conflict, the conviction might get overturned, and the government doesn’t want to risk that,” Meister said.
In March, Loughlin and Giannulli were arrested and charged by federal prosecutors with paying $500,000 in bribes so their two daughters would be designated as recruits to the USC crew team, even though neither ever rowed crew. Both daughters are still enrolled at USC, but have not attended class since the scandal broke.
The couple were among 50 parents, coaches and testing administrators who were charged in the massive bribery scheme in which wealthy families paid millions to a Newport Beach businessman named Rick Singer to help their children cheat on standardized tests and bribe test administrators and college coaches to help get their kids into top universities like USC, UCLA, Yale, Stanford and Georgetown.
Loughlin and Giannulli have plead not guilty to charges of conspiracy to commit money laundering, conspiracy to commit mail fraud and honest services mail fraud. Each count comes with a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison.
In May, fellow actress Felicity Huffman pleaded guilty for her role in the college admissions bribery scandal. Huffman admitted that she paid Singer $15,000 in the form of a donation to help her oldest daughter cheat on the SAT.
(© Copyright 2019 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)