Vinay Menon: Did Lori Loughlin just plead guilty because she thinks the pandemic is a get-out-of-jail-free card?

Vinay Menon: Did Lori Loughlin just plead guilty because she thinks the pandemic is a get-out-of-jail-free card?
But the timing seems suspicious. On Friday, the couple entered guilty pleas in last year’s Operation Varsity Blues, the FBI sting that charged wealthy parents with bribing, cheating or otherwise lying to get their offspring into prestigious universities. Yes, while you or I may encourage our kids to study hard and get good grades so they can one day get admitted to a good school, these moneyed monkeys just peeled open their wallets and said screw it.

Now, obviously, those charged last year were hardly the first to scam their way into elite institutions. Colleges have always seemed to have an invisible backdoor for the rich and famous. Does anyone really believe Donald Trump got into Wharton on scholastic merit? The guy who treats hydroxychloroquine like it’s a multivitamin? The guy who encourages fans to inject Mr. Clean to ward off a coronavirus? That guy has an intellect worthy of the Ivy League?

Right. If Trump had grown up dirt poor, there is no evidence to suggest he would have made it past Grade 5.

He’d now be working at Taco Bell and telling customers he invented the burrito.

But unlike Trump, who can never admit he is always wrong, most parents ensnared by Operation Varsity Blues did not double down on deception. Most have now pleaded guilty and been sentenced, even if the punishment has been considerably shorter than what the rest of us have endured during lockdown. Actress Felicity Huffman spent just 14 days in the slammer after admitting she paid someone $15,000 to “fix” her daughter’s SAT score.

It’s as if her kid got her driver’s licence after running a red light during the test and T-boning a school bus.

The most notable holdouts in the probe have been Loughlin and Giannulli, who have always insisted they were innocent even after they were accused of paying $500,000 to create fake applications — including doctored photographs — so their daughters could attend the University of Southern California as crew recruits, even though neither girl was a rower.

It’s not funny, but the audacity still makes me chuckle. Wouldn’t USC instructors realize something was amiss early in the first semester when Loughlin’s daughters attempted to straddle an oar or assumed the role of coxswain was to Instagram? It’s as if in a few years I paid thousands to a shady go-between to convince Harvard administrators my daughters were savant entomologists when the truth is they are absolutely terrified of spiders.

So the question is: why now? Why is Loughlin, best known for her role on “Full House,” willing to sashay into the big house and trade her designer wardrobe for an orange jumpsuit? Why is Giannulli trotting out a mea culpa?

The answer, in my opinion, is they don’t expect to ever see the inside of a jail cell.

Think about it. Prisons are now releasing inmates due to the pandemic. This virus is proving to be a literal get-out-of-jail card. Tekashi 6ix9ine should be behind bars. Instead, he’s recording new songs and getting into tedious Billboard spats with Justin Bieber and Ariana Grande. There are violent offenders roaming the streets thanks to COVID-19.

And that is why, again in my opinion, Loughlin and Giannulli see this pandemic as a legal opportunity.

Last year, the college admissions scandal seemed shocking. But now? It seems ridiculous. It is utterly impossible for most of us to get bent out of shape about the affluent gaming higher education when our kids can’t even go to school and the economy is teetering toward catastrophe. Funneling mental energy into Operation Varsity Blues at this moment in time is like worrying about losing a button when you’re getting mauled by a bear.

On Friday, U.S. District Judge Nathaniel Gorton did not instantly accept the guilty pleas from Loughlin and Giannulli, saying he needed to review presentencing reports. Good for him. He should also consider the possibility Loughlin and Giannulli are playing a cynical virus game right now: we’ll agree to go to jail expecting to never go to jail.
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