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Felicity Huffman on college admissions scandal: ‘I had to give my daughter a chance at a future’

By Jay Croft, CNN

Felicity Huffman leaves court after being sentenced in September 2019.

(CNN) —“Desperate Housewives” actress Felicity Huffman has opened up about her role in a college admissions scandal that sent her to federal prison and her efforts, post-incarceration, to help other women who were inmates.

“It felt like I had to give my daughter a chance at a future … which meant I had to break the law,” Huffman told CNN affiliate KABC News in Los Angeles on Thursday.

The Emmy winner was among 33 wealthy parents arrested in Operation Varsity Blues and accused of conspiring to get their children into college. The group included TV actress Lori Loughlin and her designer husband, Mossimo Giannulli.

Huffman told KABC she is ashamed of what she did, and she apologized to “the students and the families that sacrifice and work really hard to get to where they are going legitimately.”

Huffman was accused of paying $15,000 to the scam’s mastermind to raise her daughter’s SAT scores. She pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit mail fraud and honest services mail fraud.

“And I know hindsight is 20/20 but it felt like I would be a bad mother if I didn’t do it,” Huffman told KABC. “So – I did it.”

Huffman was sentenced in September 2019 to 14 days in prison, a year of probation and 250 hours of community service. She was fined $30,000.

Her husband, actor William H. Macy, was not charged.

Admissions consultant Rick Singer was sentenced in January 2023 to 3 1/2 years in prison and ordered to forfeit $10 million for receiving money from parents to inflate test scores and bribe school authorities.

Huffman said she had second thoughts as she drove her daughter to take the test.

“She was going, ‘Can we get ice cream afterwards? I’m scared about the test. What can we do that’s fun?’” Huffman said. “And I kept thinking, turn around, just turn around. And to my undying shame, I didn’t.”

Huffman performed her community service with a non-profit organization called A New Way of Life. It helps women who have been incarcerated with housing, clothing and job training.

“Well, I thought we would bring her in and put her at a desk and have her work in the office. And she said, ‘No, I want to do real work,’” founder Susan Burton said. “She went jogging down Central Avenue in South LA and created exercise classes for the women.”

Huffman also helped the group organize its donations, Burton said. She has now joined the organization’s board of directors.

“I want to use my experience and what I’ve gone through and the pain to bring something good, which is to shine a light on the organization,” Huffman said.

“Felicity Huffman is one of the most beautiful people I’ve met in my lifetime,” Burton said. “And I know she has had a hiccup. But it’s not the hiccup – it’s how you come through the hiccup.”

CNN has reached out to a representative for Huffman for further comment.

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