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University of Utah professor explains why people still love Lori Loughlin despite scandal

A University of Utah law professor weighs in on the Lori Loughlin scandal and why people can relate to it.

Actress Lori Loughlin arrives at federal court in Boston on Wednesday, April 3, 2019, to face charges in a nationwide college admissions bribery scandal.
Actress Lori Loughlin arrives at federal court in Boston on Wednesday, April 3, 2019, to face charges in a nationwide college admissions bribery scandal.
Steven Senne, Associated Press

SALT LAKE CITY — A University of Utah law professor expects Lori Loughlin to serve time if she is found guilty in the college admissions scandal.

“I think if she is found guilty that she will serve time. Unfortunately (or fortunately), female rule breakers have not had as much luck in evading justice as men have,” University of Utah law professor Shima Baradaran Baughman said in an email on Monday.

Lori Loughlin and her husband Mossimo Giannulli are accused of paying $500,000 in bribes so that their daughters, Olivia Jade and Bella Giannulli, would be crew team recruits for the University of Southern California. Loughlin and Giannulli pleaded not guilty back in April, according to the Associated Press.

Loughlin and Giannulli are among dozens of other parents named in the federal case. Other celebrities, like Felicity Huffman, were also named in the scandal.

But Loughlin was greeted by much fanfare when she arrived at the court for her not guilty plea in April. Baughman said she wasn’t surprised since Loughlin has such a big cultural following.

“America grew up with Lori Loughlin. She played a loveable, relatable mother figure and some still love her,” she said.

There’s also something relatable about Loughlin’s scenario. Parents can relate to doing anything for their children, and sometimes that means making bad decisions, she said.

“I think a lot of American women can relate to a mother doing anything she can to help her children get into college. Most would not go that far but can at least understand the temptation,” Baughman said.

That’s why federal prosecutors have made such a big case out of the scandal, she said. Prosecutors use high-profile cases to make examples for the common American, she said.

Baughman said the trial reminds her of Martha Stewart’s trial back in 2003. Stewart was indicted on charges of conspiracy, obstruction of justice and securities fraud, which was connected to a personal stock trade she made back in 2001, according to The New York Times. She pleaded not guilty. Stewart was convicted on all charges in 2004 four counts of obstructing justice and lying to investigators, CNN reported.

“If people see that a celebrity goes to prison for cheating and lying, they will be deterred from doing the same,” she said.

Baughman said the college admissions scandal made her worried for the future of American children since it shows parents doing whatever it takes to help their children. It doesn't allow children to solve problems — in this case, getting into college — on their own.

“It made me sad for the children. I wonder what chance our next generation will have if they are not allowed to accomplish hard things on their own,” she said.

Baughman had some free advice for Loughlin or any other celebrity stuck in one of these cases — do whatever you can to avoid prison.

“Try to plea bargain and get a deferred sentence,” she said. “Offer to serve the community. Do anything to avoid prison.”