First trial in college admissions bribery scandal ‘Operation Varsity Blues’ set to begin
Kendall Tietz, DCNF
- The first trial of the college admissions bribery scandal is set to begin Wednesday, promising new developments in an ongoing story, Fox News reported.
- The defense attorneys are attempting to shift the focus from the wealth of the defendants because they believe it will only “unfairly prejudice the jury.”
- Prosecutors believe the defense is attempting to turn the trial into a case over the University of Southern California’s admission process and its treatment of wealthy donors, which the defense believes the prosecution is trying to use against them.
The first trial of the college admissions bribery scandal is set to begin Wednesday, promising new developments in an ongoing legal battle, Fox News reported.
The jury selection for “Operation Varsity Blues” will begin at a Boston federal court against two parents accused of paying hundreds of thousands of dollars to falsify their children’s identities as athletic recruits to grant them admission into the University of Southern California (USC), Fox News reported. The two parents are former Chief Operating Officer of Wynn Resorts Development Gamal Abdelaziz and former Chief Financial Officer of Staples John Wilson, who are the first to go on trial among dozens of others accused of using similar methods to get their children into elite American universities.
Abdelaziz and Wilson’s defense attorneys are likely to argue that the parents thought their payments were legal donations, and USC’s preferential treatment of their children wasn’t outside the norm for wealthy donors, Fox News reported. Although, prosecutors maintain the stance that it is an obvious case of lying and fraud.
Abdelaziz is accused of paying scandal ringleader Rick Singer $300,000 to get his daughter into USC as a basketball recruit, according to court documents. Wilson is accused of paying Singer $220,000 to bribe USC’s water polo coach to admit his son as a recruit on the men’s team along with $1 million to get his two daughters admitted into Stanford and Harvard.
“The government appears to want to present its one-sided evidence that the ‘school wasn’t okay’ with granting preferential admissions treatment for donations while at the same time blocking the defendants’ evidence that, in fact, the school was okay with this arrangement,” the two executives’ lawyers wrote in a court filing, Fox News reported.
Other wealthy parents involved in the bribery scheme have pleaded guilty to attempts to get their children into elite universities across the country since the scandal was uncovered in March 2019, the Daily Caller News Foundation reported.
The scheme included acts “(1) to bribe college entrance exams; (2) to bribe varsity coaches and administrators at elite universities to designate certain applicants as recruited athletes or as other favored candidates … and (3) to use the facade of a charitable organization to conceal the nature and source of the bribe payments,” according to an FBI affidavit obtained by the DCNF.
Other notable figures involved in the scandal include actresses Felicity Huffman and Lori Loughlin, along with Loughlin’s husband, fashion designer Mossimo Giannulli.
Opening statements in the case will likely happen on Sept. 13, Fox News reported. The defense attorneys are attempting to shift the focus from the wealth of the defendants because they believe it will only “unfairly prejudice the jury.”
Abdelaziz and Wilson are two of the last parents fighting against a guilty verdict in the scandal, and their attorneys maintain the stance that the two did not know about any false information submitted for their childrens’ admissions, Fox News reported. Prosecutors believe the defense is attempting to turn the trial into a case over USC’s admission process and its treatment of wealthy donors, which the defense believes the prosecution is trying to use against them.