Lori Loughlin and her husband, Mossimo Giannulli, never made the most sympathetic candidates for leniency in sentencing or treatment in prison after they were convicted for their role in the college admissions scandal.
Attorneys for Giannulli, however, have put forward an argument for him to be released from federal prison early, and it’s an argument that prison reform advocates could sign on to. The attorneys say in an emergency court motion that the fashion designer has suffered “significant” mental and physical harm from being held for eight weeks in solitary confinement because of a COVID-19 outbreak at the facility.
The attorneys wrote that their 57-year-old client has spent almost 40 percent of his five-month sentence at the Lompoc prison in solitary quarantine, “despite testing negative for COVID-19 at least 10 times and despite his counsel’s multiple requests that (the U.S. Bureau of Prisons) release him from quarantine.”
Prison reform advocates have long fought the use of solitary confinement in U.S. jails and prisons, saying that any extended isolation amounts to torture because it causes severe mental and physical distress. With the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, the American Civil Liberties Union and other organizations have sounded the alarm about the “dramatic growth” in the use of solitary confinement and lockdowns as a way to stem the spread of coronavirus in their facilities.
Giannulli, who was sentenced for his role in the college admissions scandal, expected to serve out his sentence in the minimum-security satellite camp of the Lompoc prison, the motion said. Instead, he was immediately placed in solitary confinement in a small cell at the medium-security facility in what’s known in prison parlance as “the hole.” He was confined to that small cell for 24 hours a day, with only three short 20 minute breaks per week. He finally was transferred to the camp on Wednesday.
“The toll on Mr. Giannulli’s mental, physical, and emotional well-being has been significant,” the motion said.
Loughlin, who was released from the Dublin federal prison on Dec. 28, after serving a two-month sentence, is reportedly “stressed” about her husband’s well-being, People reported.
“This whole nightmare won’t stop completely until Mossimo is released too,” a source close to the former “Full House” actress told People.
Loughlin and Giannulli pleaded guilty last May to fraud charges, admitting that they paid $500,000 in bribes to get their daughters, Isabella, 21, and Olivia Jade, 20, admitted to the University of Southern California on the false pretense of being crew team recruits.
Loughlin, her husband and her daughters became the focus of America’s anger over wealthy parents being caught paying tens or hundreds of thousands of dollars in bribes to get their already privileged children into top U.S. colleges. Influencer Olivia Jade had been public on her YouTube channel about her indifference to academics, while evidence submitted by prosecutors showed that Loughlin and Giannulli had their daughters pose on rowing machines for photos to be submitted with their fake athletic profiles. Giannulli also berated Olivia Jade’s high school counselor after he raised concerns about questionable information in her USC application.
The one-time Bel Air Country Club members vehemently insisted on their innocence for more than a year and accused prosecutors of misconduct and overreach. They finally took plea deals after prosecutors released evidence showing Olivia Jade and Isabella’s possible complicity in the bribery scheme.
Loughlin, 56, reported to the Dublin Federal Correctional Institution on Oct. 30 and was initially housed with other inmates in a storage building that was converted into a makeshift COVID-19 isolation unit, prison consultant Holli Coulman told the Bay Area News Group. She was eventually moved into the general population, sharing a cubicle with three other women, said Coulman, who helps federal defendants prepare for prison life with her Pink Lady Prison Consultants.
From the new court filing, Giannulli’s experience sounds as though he suffered the same treatment as thousands of other people in U.S. prisons. Studies in recent years have shown that 60,000 to 80,000 prisoners are held in some form of isolation on any given day, with researchers saying that such confinement can lead to depression, paranoia, psychosis, panic attacks and difficulties with thinking concentration and memory. A study released in October asserts that any time spent in solitary confinement causes lasting harm and puts a person at increased risk of death in the first year after leaving prison, due to substance abuse, opioid overdose, suicide and homicide.
With the onset of COVID-19, an estimated 300,000 state and federal prisoners have been confined to their cells, either in solitary confinement or lockdown, according to a report by a coalition of groups that oppose solitary confinement, which includes the ACLU and the National Religious Campaign Against Torture.
Giannulli reported to the federal prison in Lompoc on Nov. 19. In December, his son, Gianni, wrote on his Instagram account that his father was “locked in solitary confinement for one full month” and had been “only let out every 3 days for a few moments to shower,” according to ABC News, which captured a screenshot of Gianni’s Instagram post.
Lompoc was the site of one of the worst penitentiary COVID-19 outbreaks in the country, with the virus killing four inmates and infecting more than 1,000 people, including dozens of staff, the Santa Barbara Independent reported. The outbreak subsided over the summer, but the prison started seeing another increase in cases as a new surge of the virus spread across the country.
Giannulli’s attorneys said it’s understandable that the Bureau of Prisons needs to limit the spread of the virus, including quarantining new inmates for a limited period of time, but they say subjecting their client to nearly two months of solitary quarantine, at a higher security facility than he was originally assigned, is “unfair” and “extraordinary.”
The solitary quarantine, the attorneys said, constitutes punishment that is more severe than was warranted given Giannulli’s crimes and background — “a 57-year old father, husband, and self-made successful businessman with no prior criminal record.” They also pointed out that there’s no basis for the extended use of solitary confinement in guidelines that the U.S. Justice Department issued to the Bureau of Prisons to stop the spread of the virus.
Giannulli also should be eligible for home confinement under guidance issued for former Attorney General William Bar in March and April. The guidance instructed the Bureau of Prisons to identify candidates for home confinement, based on a number of criteria: the inmate’s age and vulnerability to COVID-19; the security level of the facility holding the inmate; whether the inmate’s crime was violent and whether the inmate poses a danger to the community; the inmate’s discipline history while incarcerated; and whether the inmate has a solid release plan.
Giannulli’s attorneys said his age makes him vulnerable to severe illness from COVID. He’s also a non-violent offender, hasn’t been written up for any misconduct while at Lompoc, and he would return home to a “stable home environment.” The attorneys added that Giannulli has “the resources” to quarantine safely at home for the remainder of his sentence.
“In short, Mr. Giannulli satisfies all of the criteria for home confinement identified by Attorney General Barr,” the motion said. “These facts, taken together with the extraordinary circumstances of his extensive period confined in solitary quarantine, warrant the requested reduction in his sentence and transfer to home confinement.”
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