Will College Admission Scandal Kids Have to Testify Against Their Parents? Prosecutors Risk Becoming 'Villains' to Jury, Lawyer Says

When a judge lifted the ban on parents indicted in the college admission scandal from speaking about the case with their kids, she cautioned them against obstruction of justice and witness tampering. However, an attorney said he doesn't see the children being called to testify, due to the unflattering light it would cast on the prosecution.

Magistrate Judge Mary Page Kelley initially barred the defendants from speaking to family members about the case because they could be called as a witness. However, during a court appearance on Wednesday, she lifted the restriction on the defendants, who include Lori Loughlin and Felicity Huffman.

Huffman agreed to plead guilty on Monday and on Tuesday, Loughlin, who hadn't entered a plea, was named in a second indictment, which added the charge of money laundering conspiracy. Loughlin and her husband Mossimo Giannulli have been accused of paying $500,000 in bribes to gain admittance to the University of Southern California for their daughters, Olivia Jade and Bella.

Although Kelley warned the defendants to be careful about discussing the case in front of their children because it could bring additional charges, Adam Citron, senior counsel at Davidoff Hutcher & Citron LLP, told Newsweek he doesn't foresee the kids being called to the stand. If they did, Citron said it could "backfire" on prosecutors.

"Because they have the audio tapes and the like, they can basically be able to prove guilt without the children, there's absolutely no need for the children, [so] the prosecution would look horrible to call the children," Citron said. "I could see a jury turning away from the prosecution and really looking at them as though they're the villains."

lori loughlin college admission scandal parents testify kids
Actress Lori Loughlin and Social Media Personality Olivia Jade Giannulli attend the PrettyLittleThing by Kourtney Kardashian launch party on October 25, 2017, in Los Angeles. After Loughlin was accused of bribing her daughters' ways into USC, a laywer said it would be unlikely the kids would be called to testify. Paul Archuleta/FilmMagic

The charges came after an investigation dubbed "Operation Varsity Blues," and according to the indictment, Loughlin and Giannulli were captured in recorded phone conversations discussing the payments. However, even without that evidence, Citron said it would still be a decision the prosecution would have to take seriously.

"I do think though that if the only way to prove the case was to call the children, the prosecution would have a legitimate reason to [call the children to the stand] but they would weigh that against, is it worth destroying the family and having a child testify against their own parent," Citron explained. "It's a very tough call."

Unlike spousal privilege, nothing prevents a child from testifying against their parent. However, Citron noted that if the state subpoenaed them and they were asked a question that could implicate them in the crime, the child could plead the Fifth Amendment.

"Again, the state would look horrible for doing that. They would look heartless," Citron said, adding that it seems the prosecution is viewing the children as victims of their parents' ambitions.

Witness tampering, as Citron explained, is when someone tries to alter another person's testimony or intimidate them into not testifying. For those defendants that could be going to trial, Citron said their defense attorneys are likely counseling them on what can and cannot be discussed.

"I'm sure they're not going into the actual facts, but stating the circumstances of why they've done it, or the emotional aspects, not the factual aspects," Citron said.

Along with the most recent charge of money laundering conspiracy, Loughlin also has also been charged with conspiracy to commit mail and wire fraud and honest services mail and wire fraud.