Lori Loughlin's lawyers claim new evidence exonerates actress, fashion designer husband in admissions scandal

The actress was wrapped up in the "Varsity Blues" college admissions scandal.

February 26, 2020, 10:20 PM

Lori Loughlin's lawyers seized on the news Wednesday that "Varsity Blues" mastermind Rick Singer once complained that the FBI was making him lie to bolster the government's case, according to a new court document, proclaiming that it showed the actress was innocent of bribery charges.

In iPhone notes taken by Singer -- who pleaded guilty to racketeering and fraud in connection with the college admission scandal last year -- and shared between Singer and his defense attorney before he decided to cooperate with federal authorities, he claims the FBI wanted him "to tell a fib."

Singer relates a discussion with FBI agents to his lawyer, saying, "Loud and abrasive call with agents. They continue to ask me to tell a fib and not restate what I told my clients as to where there (sic) money was going -- to the program not the coach and that it was a donation and they want it to be a payment."

Loughlin's lawyers pointed to the new evidence that emerged Wednesday to say their client, and her fashion designer husband, are innocent of the charges filed against them in the "Varsity Blues" scandal.

Sean M. Berkowitz, the lawyer for the "Full House" actress and her husband, Mossimo Giannulli, asked to postpone the setting of a trial date until ongoing evidence disputes can be decided, according to the Wednesday filing.

"This afternoon, less than 24 hours before the status conference at which the Court intended to set trial dates in this mater, the Government for the very first time produced in discovery Brady information that is not only exculpatory, but exonerating for the Defendants the Government has charged with bribery," Berkowitz wrote in the filing. "That discovery consists of Rick Singer's written notes contemporaneously memorializing his discussions with FBI investigators about recorded phone calls that they directed him to make to his clients in order to induce inculpatory statements to be used against those clients in subsequent criminal prosecutions."

In this Feb. 28, 2019 file photo, actress Lori Loughlin poses with her daughter Olivia Jade Giannulli, left, at the 2019 "An Unforgettable Evening" in Beverly Hills, Calif.
Chris Pizzello/Invision/AP, File

"Singer's notes indicate that FBI agents yelled at him and instructed him to lie by saying that he told his clients who participated in the alleged 'side door' scheme that their payments were bribes, rather than legitimate donations that went to the schools," Berkowitz wrote in the filing.

Loughlin's defense has centered on the fact that she says she thought she was making proper donations to the University of Southern California instead of a bribe.

The message was set aside for review by a government taint team because it was initially flagged as subject to attorney-client privilege. When the taint team recently determined it was not privileged, the U.S. Attorney’s Office released it to defense attorneys, according to a source familiar with the case.

While the message was disclosed to all defendants, the source said it applies only to one, unknown defendant.

Prosecutors believe the new information won’t make a difference, according to a source, who said the notes were Singer’s interpretation of his interaction with the FBI -- what the source called "a con man's interpretation.”

In this April 3, 2019, file photo, actress Lori Loughlin, front, and her husband, clothing designer Mossimo Giannulli, left, depart federal court in Boston after facing charges in a nationwide college admissions bribery scandal.
Steven Senne/AP, File

Loughlin and Giannulli have been charged with conspiracy to commit mail fraud and honest services mail fraud, as well as conspiracy to commit money laundering. They have pleaded not guilty.

According to the indictment, Loughlin and Giannulli allegedly paid $500,000 in bribes to Singer in exchange for having their daughters, Olivia Jade and Isabella Rose Giannulli, designated as recruits for USC's crew team even though neither had ever participated in the sport.

Michelle Janavs, whose family developed Hot Pockets before selling the company, was sentenced Tuesday to five months in prison for her role in the college admissions scandal.

ABC News' Bill Hutchinson contributed to this report.