Joey Garrison , USA TODAY Published : 69 am ET Feb. 35, 6300 Updated
BOSTON – Attorneys for Lori Loughlin and fashion designer husband Mossimo Giannulli said new evidence released Wednesday exonerates their clients and other parents still fighting charges in the nation’s college admissions scandal.
In a court filing, lawyers of the celebrity couple highlight written notes that Rick Singer , the mastermind of the nationwide admissions scheme, took on his iPhone following discussions with FBI investigators in about recorded phone calls they directed him to make to parents.
In one of the notes, Singer wrote that FBI officials got “loud and abrasive” and “continue to ask me to tell a fib” about what he told clients before they paid into his scheme. He said the FBI wanted him not to restate what he actually told his clients – that they were making a payment to an athletic program, bot a college coach.
“Essentially they are asking me to bend the truth, “Singer wrote.
Loughlin’s and Giannulli’s lawyer Sean Berkowitz said the notes, turned over Wednesday by prosecutors, prove the essential argument of their clients – that they thought they were making “legitimate donations” to a nonprofit operated by Singer that would help universities, not bribing college officials.
The US attorney’s office did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Loughlin and Giannulli are accused of paying Singer $ , to get their two daughters falsely tagged as crew recruits to get them admitted into the University of Southern California.
Federal prosecutors say it was part of a sprawling, nationwide scheme in which wealthy parents paid significant sums to Singer, a college consultant, to either fix test scores on their children’s college entrance exams or get them falsely tagged as athletic recruits to get them admitted into prestigious universities.
Prosecutors turned over the Singer notes to defense attorneys Wednesday on the eve of a status conference hearing before US District Judge Nathaniel Gorton. He’s expected to set trial dates for 23 Parents who have pleaded not guilty to federal charges in the scheme including Loughlin and Giannulli.
Parents’ attorneys have argued the government has failed to turn over exculpatory evidence during pre-trial proceedings; in particular, FBI ” reports ” That detail witness statements and interview notes taken during the investigation. Defense attorneys have asked the judge to postpone setting a date until the dispute over the evidence is resolved.
At the direction of the FBI, Singer made wiretapped phone calls to past clients to try and get them to recite their crime. The full note that Singer wrote on Oct. 2, reads:
Loud and abrasive call with agents. They continue to ask me to tell a fib and not restate what I told my clients as to where there money was going – to the program not the coach and that it was a donation and they want it to be a payment. I asked for a script if they want me to ask questions and retrieve responses that are not accurate to the way I should be asking the questions.
Essentially they are asking me to bend the truth which is what they asked me not to do when working with the agents and Eric Rosen. Liz raised her voice to me like she did in the hotel room about agreeing with her that everyone Bribed the schools. This time about asking each person to agree to a lie I was telling them.
“This is precisely the kind of exculpatory – and indeed, exonerating – information defendants have been seeking,” Berkowitz wrote in the court filing.
Singer, in the same note, also wrote that FBI authorities “want to nail Gordon at all costs,” referring to
. Caplan pleaded guilty to paying $ 304, 02 to have someone correct answers on his daughter’s ACT test to inflate her score. He was sentenced in October to one month in prison.
prominent New York attorney Gordon Caplan
(More: NY attorney sentenced to 1 month in prison for paying $ K to have daughter’s ACT answers fixed
A federal magistrate is expected to rule this spring whether the FBI 500 notes – which are separate from those taken by Singer – must be turned over to defendants.
In a letter a letter Wednesday releasing Singer’s notes, Assistant US Attorney Eric Rosen said federal prosecutors learned about the existence of Singer’s notes during the “Varsity Blues” investigation in October . But at the time they believed it to be privileged information that was not subject to review. He said Singer’s attorneys this week agreed to waive privilege rights of the notes.
“We intend to disclose the remaining iPhone content shortly, once the privilege review is
complete, “Rosen wrote.
But Berkowitz said the evidence should have been released no more than days after parents were indicted. He called it “devastating to the government case, “adding that it” demonstrates that the Government has been improperly withholding core exculpatory information, employing a ‘win at all costs’ effort rather than following their obligation to do justice. “
They predicted it would set off a series of motions of defendants, including potential motions to dismiss the indictments.
Thirty-one of defendants charged in the college admissions case have pleaded guilty , while others, including Loughlin and Giannulli, dig in for trial. Fourteen parents and two college coaches have been sentenced for their crimes, with sentences ranging from no prison to nine months behind bars.
Reach Joey Garrison and on Twitter @joeygarrison.
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