“Full House” actress Lori Loughlin and her husband, fashion designer Mossimo Giannulli, will stand trial in October for their role in the Operation Varsity Blues admissions scandal, a judge ruled in federal court Thursday.
Loughlin and Giannulli paid $500,000 between October 2016 and February 2018 for senior associate athletic director Donna Heinel to falsely designate their two daughters as crew recruits to secure admission to USC. They claim they believed the payments were legitimate donations, according to court documents.
Jury selection for the trial will begin Sept. 28, and the court proceedings will commence Oct. 5, Judge Nathaniel Gorton said in court Thursday. The defendants will be composed of all parents named in the case who paid for their children’s admission to the University, and the trial will last up to four weeks, Gorton said. Seven other parents named in the case will stand trial beginning Jan. 11, 2021.
The hearing follows a motion Loughlin and Giannulli filed in court Wednesday requesting a postponement of the setting of their trial date after the federal government released additional evidence in the case to the couple’s defense. They also filed a document requesting specific groupings of parents named in the admissions case for trial based on the parents’ area of involvement in the scheme, with Loughlin, Giannulli, Gamal Abdelaziz, Diane and Todd Blake and John Wilson — all of whom paid Singer to arrange their children’s fraudulent admission to USC as athletic recruits — in the first grouping.
Among the evidence the government released Wednesday was a note from scheme organizer William “Rick” Singer’s iPhone that he wrote following a phone call with FBI investigators. In the note, Singer stated that he deliberately tricked parents, including Loughlin and Giannulli, into believing the money they paid would be donated to University programs and that investigators asked him to testify that the parents knew their payments would be used as bribes.
“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,” the note read.
The defense argued that the delay in the release of evidence cast doubt on the government’s motives in the case and stated that it violated the Brady law, which requires the prosecution to disclose evidence relevant to the defendant’s argument within 30 days of indictment. The Operation Varsity Blues charges were filed March 5, 2019.
“This belated discovery … is devastating to the Government’s case and 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,” the defense stated in a motion filed Wednesday. The prosecution released the iPhone note Wednesday with a statement that it would disclose the remaining notes shortly.
Loughlin and Giannulli have pleaded not guilty to conspiracy to commit mail and wire fraud and honest services mail and wire fraud, conspiracy to commit federal programs bribery and conspiracy to commit money laundering. They are among 19 parents in the admissions case with ties to USC, nine of whom have pleaded not guilty and will go to trial this fall.