In the Broadway musical Destry, based on the 1939 movie Destry Rides Again, as Gyp Watson prepares to be hanged, there’s a song, “Are You Ready, Gyp Watson?”, a showstopper. One of the passages in the song (sung as a sort of descant) is
Oh he may have been willful
Yes, he may have been wild
But one look will convince you
He’s as innocent as a newborn child
He’s just friendly and playful
What a lovable lad
And his friends will all tell you
He ain’t got the brains to be bad
My wife and I are convinced that’s the rationale for Lori Laughlin and her husband’s “Not Guilty” plea in the widely published college admissions cheating scandal for which they are standing trial. We call it the “Gyp Watson Defense”. Based on what has happened so far they may well be able to convince a jury that they “ain’t got the brains to be bad”.
In his Wall Street Journal column William McGurn is oddly sympathetic with Ms. Loughlin:
If convicted of all the charges federal prosecutors have piled up against them, Ms. Loughlin and her husband could be sentenced to as much as 45 years in prison.
This is nuts.
The same operation that caught Ms. Loughlin also snared dozens of other high-powered people, including CEOs, lawyers and venture capitalists. They too are accused of paying fixer William “Rick” Singer either to cheat on their kids’ college entrance exams, to present them fraudulently for college admission as athletes, or both. But Ms. Loughlin’s celebrity status has ensured that she and fellow actress Felicity Huffman remain the face of the scandal for most Americans.
With this difference: While Ms. Huffman pleaded guilty, apologized profusely and served out her sentence (14 days, but released after 12 because it was a weekend) at the Federal Correctional Institution in Dublin, Calif., Ms. Loughlin and Mr. Giannulli are insisting, perhaps unwisely, on taking their case to a jury. Meanwhile, in the same way the sans-culottes jeered Marie Antoinette on her way to the guillotine, today’s equivalent— Twitter mobs and gossip sheets—are thirsting to see this icon of Tinseltown wealth and privilege cut down to size by a stint in federal prison.
Now, it may well be standard procedure for prosecutors to add new charges when their targets refuse to plead. But does anyone else think it a stretch to argue that two California residents bribing their children’s way into a private California university are committing a crime against the federal government? Or that the statutes she’s accused of violating, such as bribery or money laundering in connection with a program that receives federal funding, were really intended to go after people such as Ms. Loughlin?
He does bring up a good point: why are they, literally, making a federal case of this? I genuinely don’t know. Is it because the prosecutors just stumbled across this and smell blood? That’s largely what’s been said.
Or does it strike a chord with people who are highly committed to the idea of a college degree-based technocracy? If that college degree doesn’t mean what they claim it means, where does that leave them?