‘Varsity Blues’ Student Admission Case Trial Promises New Things

Jury selection began Wednesday in federal court in Boston in the case against two parents – former casino executive Gamal Abdelaziz and former Staples and Gap Inc executive. John Wilson. They are accused of paying hundreds of thousands of dollars to help their children get admitted to the University of Southern California (USC) by lying about being recruited as athletes.

Although they were among dozens of high-profile parents, athletic coaches and others who were arrested across the country when the case made headlines more than two years ago, their case is the first to be tried.

Lawyers are expected to state that their clients believe their payments are legitimate donations and that USC’s treatment of their children is routine for deep-pocketed parents.

A cyclist passes the Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs at Princeton University, New Jersey, November 20, 2015, as an illustration.  (Photo: Reuters)

A cyclist passes the Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs at Princeton University, New Jersey, November 20, 2015, as an illustration. (Photo: Reuters)

“The government appears to want to provide unilateral evidence that the ‘incorrect school’ provides special admissions treatment for donations while at the same time blocking the defendant’s evidence that, in fact, the school approved of this arrangement,” the lawyers for the two executives wrote in court documents.

Prosecutors said the defense was only trying to escalate the situation in a case that was clearly a lie and fraud.

Since March 2019, a number of wealthy parents have pleaded guilty to paying handsomely to help their children get accepted into elite schools with rigged test scores or fake athletic IDs. The group – including TV actresses Felicity Huffman and Lori Loughlin and Loughlin’s fashion designer husband, Mossimo Giannulli, have received sentences ranging from probation to nine months in prison.

Haley Mandelberg, a resident of Boston, Massachusetts, where Felicity Huffman was sentenced to 14 days in prison last September, is following the admissions scandal.

“I think it’s interesting that this is happening in a big college town. I think college admissions has to be a merit-based system, so it’s interesting to see what’s going on here. People pay to get their kids into college. high,” he told AFP news agency.

“Not that surprising, right? I mean, if people have the means, especially movie stars who pay to get into college – we assume that’s the case – so I’m not surprised. I’m glad it’s now revealed,” said Boston resident Oliver Thorn. other

Now, prosecutors face the challenge of convincing the jury that two of the remaining parents are guilty.

Abdelaziz, from Las Vegas, is accused of paying $300,000 to a bogus charity run by the mastermind of this admissions scheme, admissions consultant Rick Singer to enroll Abdelaziz’s daughter into USC as a basketball athlete. Prosecutors said Abdelaziz signed an athletic profile praising the student as a sports star, even though she wasn’t even on the basketball team in her high school.

Xiaoning Sui, center, a Chinese citizen living in British Columbia, Canada, leaves federal court, Friday, February 21, 2020, in Boston, after pleading guilty to paying $400,000 to send her son to the University of California, Los Angeles.  (Photo: AP)

Xiaoning Sui, center, a Chinese citizen living in British Columbia, Canada, leaves federal court, Friday, February 21, 2020, in Boston, after pleading guilty to paying $400,000 to send her son to the University of California, Los Angeles. (Photo: AP)

Wilson, who heads a private equity firm in Massachusetts, is being sued for paying $220,000 to have his son designated as a recruit for the USC water polo team. She paid an additional $1 million to have her twin daughters admitted to Harvard and Stanford.

Prosecutors said Singer told Wilson he couldn’t put his two daughters on Stanford’s sailing team because – according to Singer – the coach “really had to recruit some real athletes so Stanford wouldn’t find out.”

A lawyer for Abdelaziz declined to comment before the trial, and Wilson’s lawyer did not respond to messages for comment.

Lawyers in court documents argued their clients were not aware of the false information being passed on about their children. They said USC could not fall victim to a scam because the university regularly rewards donors by giving special treatment to their children for admission to the university.

Prosecutors accused the defense of trying to turn the case into a trial over USC’s admissions policy, rather than whether parents agreed to lie and fabricate their children’s athletic credentials. USC previously said it was not aware of Singer’s scheme until 2018 when it began working with investigators.

The judge told the defense team at a recent hearing that “USC was not tried.” The judge said the parents’ lawyers would be allowed to present evidence that the university accepted other ineligible students with their parents’ donations, only if the defendants became aware of it at the time they paid the alleged bribe.

Lawyers have sought to block prosecutors from presenting evidence about their income, wealth, expenses or lifestyle, saying it would not affect anything other than “causing the jury’s presumption unfairly.”

But US District Judge Nathaniel Gorton said such evidence could suggest that parents are motivated “to enroll their children in elite universities so that they can maintain or enhance their status in society.”

Singer, an admissions consultant, began working with the FBI in 2018 and recorded phone conversations with parents. He has pleaded guilty and was long expected to be a key witness for the government. [my/ka]

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