Professor Bowman: Adding Bribery Charge Gives Prosecutors Another Advantage in Admissions Scandal

In a recent article in the Los Angeles Times, Facing prospect of added bribery charge, four parents plead guilty in admissions scandal, Professor Frank O. Bowman explains how adding the bribery charge could work to draw more plea deals. Bowman is a former federal prosecutor in the U.S. attorney’s office for the Southern District of Florida.

The admissions scandal surrounds 52 people charged with using an athletic recruitment scam and/or rigging their children’s college entrance exams in order to get them enrolled in elite universities. Most have been charged with conspiracy to commit fraud and money laundering. So far, 29 have pleaded guilty or said they plan to do so. Those that have admitted their guilt early may spend some amount of time in prison. Those who plan to clear their names at trial are among those who face the additional bribery charge.

According to Professor Bowman in the article, adding the bribery charge offers another powerful advantage for the government. Under the bribery guideline, prosecutors can substitute the amount a parent paid in bribes for the loss incurred by the victim of their crimes, which then drives up the guideline ranges that judges use when determining a sentence. And though judges are not obliged to follow sentencing guidelines, Bowman says “the higher the guidelines are going into sentencing, the more likely you’re going to prison.”

In a Wall Street Journal article in March 2019, At the Core of College Admissions Case: When Is Cheating a Crime?, Professor Bowman also commented on how the punishment could depend upon how the federal sentencing guidelines were applied.