Judge denies requests to drop admissions case

Judge Nathaniel Gorton stated that the evidence of alleged misconduct by government prosecutors was inadequate to merit the dropping of charges in the admissions case. (Daily Trojan file photo)

A judge overseeing the Operation Varsity Blues case will not be dismissing charges against the parents in the scandal, he wrote in a memorandum entered into federal court Friday. The filing follows motions by the defendants requesting the case be dropped in light of allegations of prosecutorial misconduct.

Waiving charges is admissible only in cases of egregious government misconduct and lacks precedent in the Massachusetts District Court, where the admissions case is being heard, U.S. District Judge Nathaniel Gorton wrote in the memorandum. He contended that insufficient evidence had been presented to legitimately accuse the government of intentional investigatory wrongdoing.

“After consideration of the extensive briefing, affidavits and other information provided by the government and defendants, the Court is satisfied that the government has not lied to or misled the Court,” the memorandum read.

The 14 parents who have pleaded not guilty in the college admissions case filed a motion in March alleging that government investigators deliberately withheld evidence and that the delays in releasing the documents obstructed the parents’ ability to construct a defense.

“The Government offered no explanation for its delay in producing the exculpatory information, though its sur-reply revealed that the information had been in its possession for at least two months,” the motion read. “And the Government once again reiterated that it was ‘not withholding exculpatory evidence.’”

The defendants also accused the prosecution of manipulating scheme organizer William “Rick” Singer’s testimony when prosecutors released notes from Singer’s iPhone that called the government’s interrogation “loud and abrasive.” Singer’s notes also claimed that a prosecutor had told him to lie about having told the parents he worked with that their payments would fund legitimate causes rather than bribes. The motion submitted in March asked that the charges be waived due to the alleged coercion and the delayed release of evidence.

“Singer’s notes reveal the Government’s efforts to fabricate inculpatory evidence against Defendants, including by drafting scripts to guide Singer during calls,” the memorandum accompanying the motion read. “Other evidence in the case shows that Singer followed the Government’s directions and further undermines the substance of the recordings.”

Singer’s documents do not evidentiate claims that the prosecutors extrapolated his witness statement inappropriately, Gorton wrote. According to the filing Friday, the questioning discussed in the notes was not directly related to the parents named in the case, but rather to another scheme Singer was planning to recruit new parents, and Singer wrote the notes before agreeing to fully cooperate with government prosecutors.

“To the extent the defendants are dissatisfied with Singer’s purported denials of any wrongdoing in connection with his rehearsed telephone calls, they will have ample opportunity to cross examine him if and when he testifies at trial,” Gorton wrote in his memorandum.

The 14 parents, 11 with USC ties, who have pleaded not guilty and are fighting charges in the college admissions case will stand trial in Boston federal court beginning Oct. 5. The case is expected to proceed as planned despite interruptions to normal courtroom proceedings due to the coronavirus pandemic.