Actress Felicity Huffman has described her “eternal shame” as she became the first parent sentenced in the US college admissions cheating scandal.
The former Desperate Housewives star will go to jail for 14 days after pleading guilty to paying someone to secretly correct her daughter’s answers on a university entrance exam.
Huffman, 56, who won an Emmy award for Desperate Housewives and was nominated for a best-actress Oscar for Transamerica, was sentenced in the federal court in Boston.
She must report to prison on October 25 to serve the sentence.
The actress was also fined $US30,000 ($43,500), ordered to complete 250 hours of community service and given a one-year supervised release.
A remorseful Huffman apologised for her actions, telling the court: “I am deeply ashamed of what I have done.
“At the end of the day I had a choice to make. I could have said ‘no’”.
Huffman broke down as she admitted she would always regret not turning the car around on the day she drove her unsuspecting daughter to a testing centre.
“I thought to myself turn around. Just turnaround,” she said.
“And to my eternal shame, I didn’t.”
She also laid bare, in a letter to the judge, a conversation she had with her daughter when the bribery scandal – the largest of its kind in the US – was exposed.
Huffman said Sophia told her: “I don’t know who you are anymore mum? Why didn’t you think I could do it on my own?”
Prosecutors had recommended a sentence of one month behind bars for her payment of $US15,000 ($21,800) to rig the SAT standardised test used for college admissions.
US Attorney Andrew Lelling also recommended a $US20,000 ($29,000) fine and one year of probation.
Huffman’s lawyers urged the judge to allow her to remain free on one year’s probation, complete 250 hours of community service and pay a $US20,000 ($29,000) fine.
Huffman is among 51 people charged in a vast scheme in which wealthy parents conspired to use bribery and other forms of fraud to secure for their children places at prominent US universities.
These included Yale, Stanford, Georgetown, the University of Southern California, the University of Texas and Wake Forest.
More than 30 parents were charged as part of Operation Varsity Blues, including actress Lori Loughlin, who starred in the TV series Full House, and her designer husband Mossimo Giannulli, as well as a host of corporate executives, financiers and lawyers.
Unlike Huffman, Loughlin and Giannulli pleaded not guilty.
Prosecutors said the accused parents acted with the help of William “Rick” Singer, a California college admissions consultant.
Huffman said her daughter Sophia was unaware of the scheme until the actress was arrested on March 12. The actress said her daughter was four years old when Huffman first started trying to help her deal with learning disabilities.
“I find Motherhood bewildering,” Huffman said in a letter to the judge before sentencing.
“My daughter looked at me and asked with tears streaming down her face, ‘Why didn’t you believe in me? Why didn’t you think I could do it on my own?’ … I have compromised my daughter’s future, the wholeness of my family and my own integrity,” Huffman said in her letter.
Her husband actor William H Macy, 69, said their daughter “certainly paid the dearest price” when her desired college, which has remained unnamed, rescinded its acceptance after Huffman’s arrest.
“She had been accepted into a few schools but her heart was set on one in particular which, ironically, doesn’t require SAT scores,” Mr Macy said in a letter to the judge.
“She started as one of several thousand applicants and after making it through many auditions, she flew to the school two days after her mum’s arrest for the final selections. When she landed, the school emailed her withdrawing their invitation to audition,” Mr Macy said.