Former Stanford sailing coach dodges prison term in ‘Varsity Blues’ college entrance scam

jejim/iStock(BOSTON) -- The former Stanford University sailing coach charged in the massive "Varsity Blues" college entrance cheating scam avoided a prison term Wednesday when he became the first defendant in the nationwide scandal to be sentenced.

John Vandemore was sentenced in Boston federal court to six months of home detention and two years of supervised release. He was also ordered to pay a $10,000 fine.

Vandemore, 42, had pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit racketeering. Of the 22 defendants who have pleaded guilty, he was the first to be sentenced.

Vandemore had faced a sentence of 27 to 33 months in prison, but U.S. District Court Judge Rya Zobel departed from the suggested sentencing guidelines, concluding "he's probably the least culpable in this case" and saying that it was hard to justify sending him to prison.

Technically, Zobel sentenced Vandemore to one day in prison, accounting for the time he spent in jail following his arrest in March.

During Wednesday's court hearing, Vandemore apologized to those he said he hurt, including his wife, sister, father and friends, as well as his former Stanford team, the sailing community, and the sailing alumni of the Palo Alto, California, university.

"I love you and I'm truly sorry," Vandemore said.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Eric Rosen vigorously argued for a 13-month prison sentence for Vandemore, and he read several letters from high school students who were disheartened by the scandal, in which Vandemore and other coaches at elite colleges allegedly accepted bribes in exchange for helping get students from wealthy families into their schools.

“This is unfair," Rosen said of the sentence handed down by Zobel. "This is totally unfair. This system is rigged. It is broken... If we give just a slap on the wrist instead of real punishment ... we’re shortchanging not only the criminal justice system but all those kids in high school.”

But Zobel was unmoved by Rosen's argument and expressed skepticism that Vandemore personally benefited from the scam, citing evidence that he gave all of the bribe money to the Stanford sailing program.

“I don’t know what we’re fighting about other than for your other cases," Zobel told Rosen.

Vandemore's lawyer, Robert Fisher, countered that his client should not be made an example in the widespread cheating scam.

“It’s unfortunate John has to be the first to go through this," Fisher said. "I really don’t think this is about him."

“He is doing anything and everything he can to rebuild his life," Fisher added. "He’s been working extremely hard on this. You have a gentleman here today who has taken all the right steps. He admits he made a mistake. He’s remorseful and paid a very, very significant price.”

On March 13, federal prosecutors announced that 50 people, including 33 wealthy parents, were charged in the largest college cheating scam ever prosecuted by the U.S. Department of Justice.

Those indicted included actresses Felicity Huffman and Lori Loughlin, who prosecutors said allegedly paid bribes to William "Rick" Singer, who masterminded the scam.

Singer, the owner of a college counseling service and a sham charity called Key Worldwide Foundation, allegedly accepted bribes totaling $25 million from parents between 2011 and 2018 to guarantee their children's admission to elite schools. Singer, in turn, paid bribes to coaches, who allegedly claimed the students were recruited athletes despite never having played the sport they were recruited for.

Singer, 58, of Newport Beach, California, pleaded guilty in a Boston federal court in March on charges of racketeering conspiracy, money laundering conspiracy, conspiracy to defraud the United States and obstruction of justice. He cooperated with federal investigators, even wearing a wire to help investigators implicate parents in the scam.

He is scheduled to be sentenced on June 19.

Huffman, 56, is among the defendants who have pleaded guilty in the scam. She pleaded guilty last month to a charge of conspiracy to commit mail fraud and honest services mail fraud.

Through tears, Huffman acknowledged that she was guilty of paying $15,000 to arrange for a college entrance exam proctor to correct her daughter’s answers, and for her daughter to be allowed more time to take the test. In exchange for her plea, federal prosecutors consented to recommend a sentence of four months imprisonment, a year of supervised release and a $20,000 fine.

Huffman is expected to be sentenced on Sept. 13 in Boston federal court.

Loughlin, 54, best known for her role as Aunt Becky in the ABC sitcom "Full House," and her husband, fashion designer Mossimo Giannulli, 55, continue to fight the charges against them.

Loughlin and Giannulli allegedly agreed to pay Singer "bribes totaling $500,000 in exchange for having their two daughters designated as recruits to the USC crew team -- despite the fact that they did not participate in crew -- thereby facilitating their admission to USC," according to the indictment.

Both were initially charged with conspiracy to commit mail fraud and honest services mail fraud. In April, prosecutors filed an additional count of conspiracy to commit money laundering against Loughlin, Giannulli and 14 other parents ensnared in the scam.


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Parents brawl during youth baseball game after disagreeing with 13-year-old umpire

Parents brawl during youth baseball game after disagreeing with 13-year-old umpirefstop123/iStock(LAKEWOOD, Colo.) -- A baseball game between a group of 7-year-old kids degenerated into an all-out brawl with parents throwing haymakers, other cowering for cover and a woman even jumping on someone's back.

The reason for the brawl: a parent didn't like the calls being made by a 13-year-old umpire.

The fight began at Westgate Elementary School in Lakewood, Colo., a suburb southwest of Denver, on Saturday at about noon as 15 to 20 adults got into a violent tussle, according to Lakewood police.

The brawl was still ongoing as Lakewood police arrived at the scene.

These adults took over the field and began assaulting each other on 6/15 during a youth baseball game. We're looking for any info, in particular to ID the man in the white shirt/teal shorts. Several people have already been cited in this fight and injuries were reported. pic.twitter.com/ieenhwCrbU

— Lakewood Police (@LakewoodPDCO) June 18, 2019

Police issued four citations for disorderly conduct, but said they are still searching for others involved in the fight.

Police are looking for an adult in a white T-shirt and teal shorts in particular because he can be seen in the video throwing sucker punches at people looking in the other direction. Police said it is unknown if this person is a parent of one of the children in the game.

There were a few minor injuries and one person suffered serious bodily injury, police told ABC News. No details on the injury were available.

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