With two court appearances looming, Lori Loughlin and Mossimo Giannulli's legal defense team is getting ready to play hardball in the interest of keeping the famous couple out of prison.
The "Fuller House" star and her designer husband are accused of turning over $500,000 worth of bribe money so that college admissions "expert" Rick Singer could get their daughters into USC under false pretenses that they were crew recruits. Thanks to TMZ, however, some key elements of the defense's strategy have already been leaked.
Last week, the website reported the defense could call USC's former head of athletics Pat Haden to the stand to have him talk about the university's directive that he raise a windfall of funds for the school, something he talked about in a video back in 2011.
That point would bolster the defense's reported overall approach, will TMZ claims will be to show Lori and Mossimo simply did what all wealthy parents do when their kids want to go to a certain school — shell out big bucks in the form of charitable donations, which aren't bribes if they're going into university coffers, as the $50,000 check Mossimo gave former Senior Associate Athletic Director Donna Heinel was intended to do. The defense will argue that check was made out to USC and sent via advice from Rick, while the U.S. Attorney will try to show checks such as that one were bribes, according to TMZ's information.
Lori and Mossimo's pal Rick also had Mossimo write a $200,000 check out to Key Worldwide Foundation, one of Rick's nonprofits. Given the nature of the organization that accepted the money, the defense is expected to argue the charitable donation was just that — not a bribe.
Finally, prosecutors have pointed to the $20,000 a month Pat Heinel received from Rick as proof the admissions specialist was bribing the athletics department honcho. But TMZ reports both of the couple's daughters, Olivia and Isabella Giannulli, were accepted before that money started flowing. The website adds that the cash was to be used "for various things Heinel did for several families," according to sources.
It doesn't hurt that the judge handling the case previously ruled that if the alleged fraud was a crime, it was a victimless crime — or that the defense team is being helmed by Sean M. Berkowitz, whose cv includes a stint as director of the Enron Task Force for the Department of Justice.
Lastly, TMZ reports that while many of the other universities involved in the nationwide college admissions scandal have already made the results of investigations into what happened public, USC's investigation "is ongoing."
In the meantime, Lori, who could face up to 45 years behind bars if she's convicted of conspiracy to commit money laundering, mail and wire fraud and federal programs bribery charges, has reportedly hired a prison expert to help her prepare in the case of a serious sentence.