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The current state of the world might have been a reason for Lori Loughlin and her husband, Mossimo Giannulli, deciding to plead guilty in the college admissions scandal.
The couple was accused of paying $500,000 in bribes to get their daughters, Olivia Jade and Isabella Rose, admitted to the University of Southern California as recruits for the crew team, though neither of the women had ever participated in the sport. Loughlin and Giannulli initially pleaded not guilty to all charges leveled against them, claiming their payments were donations to the school and not bribes.
Now, if approved by the court, Loughlin's plea deal states that she will serve two months in prison and two years of supervised release, pay a $150,000 fine, and complete 100 hours of community service. Meanwhile, under his proposed plea deal, Giannulli will serve five months in prison and two years of supervised release, pay a $250,000 fine, and complete 250 hours of community service.
According to Jesse Weber, attorney and host at the Law & Crime Network, Loughlin and her husband might have agreed to a plea deal because of how the coronavirus pandemic is affecting the legal system.
"They might believe like, 'Hey, if I plead guilty now, maybe I can serve my prison time at home or maybe my prison sentence can be pushed back,'" Weber says. "This is a very weird time we're in. It's a very strange time in terms of the court system. They might have thought that during this pandemic, they might get some leeway."
Weber adds that there is "actually a danger of sending guilty parties to prison" right now in terms of their health. "We see numerous defendants who've already been convicted or plead guilty, they're actually able to serve prison time at home," he tells ET.
However, Weber notes that Judge Nathaniel Gorton, the judge presiding over this case, is "known for posing pretty strict sentences and has always said he wants to send these defendants to jail in order to make a point."
Weber says the pandemic could just delay Loughlin and Giannulli's sentencing. "Another thing the judge could ultimately do is say, 'Hey, listen, I'm going to wait a few months, see if COVID-19 clears up and then I'm going to wait and send you to prison to serve your entire sentence. That's a very strong possibility because this judge is known for not being that lenient."
While the COVID-19 outbreak does pose setbacks, Weber thinks it's "highly unlikely" that the 55-year-old actress and 56-year-old fashion designer will not face any jail time, given how everything has gone so far in the case.
In addition to the coronavirus pandemic, Weber says there were probably other factors that led to Loughlin and Giannulli wanting to now plead guilty. Their decision came nearly two weeks after Judge Gorton declined to dismiss the charges against Loughlin, Giannulli, and several other parents after they accused investigators of fabricating evidence.
"They were headed to trial where the prosecution's case was very strong. The judge refused to throw out the indictment, the judge refused to not allow certain evidence to come in that the defense didn't want to come in. He said a jury is ultimately going to decide all these issues," he says. "It really wasn't looking good for them and there was nothing that was going to be stopping this trial from moving forward. I think that they really gave it their best and said [to themselves,] 'At this point, we're gonna do what we need to do. We're gonna plead guilty before this goes to trial.' Because if they were convicted, they were looking at years in prison."
Weber adds, "They probably negotiated this with the government and said that this is the best deal that they could take at this point in time."
Loughlin and Giannulli's plea hearing is scheduled for Friday at 11:30 a.m. ET, and will take place via video conference.