Desperate Housewives star Felicity Huffman wept as a Boston court heard prosecutors recommend she spend four months in jail as part of a plea deal in the US college admissions cheating scandal.
Holding hands with her brother Moore Huffman jnr after arriving nearly two hours early for her hearing on Monday (US time), the Emmy winner officially pleaded guilty in the case.
Huffman, 56, paid $21,500 to admissions consultant William “Rick” Singer and his non-profit organisation, Key Worldwide Foundation, which prosecutors claimed was a front for accepting bribes.
Singer then had an exam supervisor correct Huffman’s oldest daughter’s SAT test answers.
The scheme worked because Huffman’s daughter did not sit the test at her high school after a neuropsychologist’s note was provided.
Huffman broke down while explaining to Judge Indira Talwani that her daughter had been a patient of a neuropsychologist since she was eight, and had received extra time on exams since she was 11.
But the Transamerica star told the court the request to change the SAT venue was not part of the scheme but made for genuine reasons: “The neuropsychologist had no part of this.”
She also told Judge Talwani her daughter knew nothing about the scam.
According to authorities, she also considered going through with the plan for her younger daughter but decided not to.
Authorities also claimed Huffman’s actor husband William H Macy, 69, was with her when Singer explained how he could arrange for the cheating because he “controlled” a test centre.
Both Huffman and Macy agreed to the plan, authorities say, but Macy has not been charged. Prosecutors have not explained why.
The actress had to pause “for a full minute”, according to People magazine, to compose herself while talking about her daughter in court.
Huffman told the judge she understood the terms of her plea deal, which mean she can’t run for office or own a gun or ammunition.
Judge Talwani reminded Huffman that if she pleaded guilty, her right to stand trial would be waived.
In April, Huffman agreed to the plea, saying, “I am in full acceptance of my guilt, and with deep regret and shame over what I have done, I accept full responsibility for my actions”.
She was “ashamed of the pain” she had caused family and friends, she said, and “I want to apologise to them.”
In return for a government recommendation she receive a lower-end punishment of four to 10 months, the mother-of-two has agreed not appeal any prison decision of up to 20 years.
The judge could also choose not to put her behind bars at all.
Prosecutors also recommended Huffman be slapped with a $28,700 fine.
She will be sentenced on September 13.
Huffman is one of 50 people, including coaches, admission counsellors and parents, charged in March over the cheating scandal.
Fellow actress Lori Loughlin (Full House) was also charged, along with her fashion designer husband J. Mossimo Giannulli.
Loughlin, 54, and Giannulli, 55, have pleaded not guilty to paying $718,000 in bribes to get their daughters into the University of Southern California as rowing recruits even though neither of them row.