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Posts Tagged ‘Sentencing’

In the next few days, two famous women will be released from US prisons. One is a celebrity we all know and love for her acting chops, who did the right thing. Felicity Huffman was only trying to leverage her daughter’s chances at getting into a good college, and was the first parent to plead guilty in a bizarre scheme of “pay to play” in order to enhance SAT scores. It would seem Huffman has a conscience and admitted the error of her ways. The other woman, Maria Butina, is a Russian asset.

Without much fanfare, Butina will find herself in a Miami deportment center this weekend en route to Moscow.

According to the FBI, in 2015 Butina emailed a US Republican lobbyist Paul Erickson, who she reportedly dated and lived with, a project proposal called “diplomacy”. It centred around using NRA links to influence the US Republican Party’s foreign policy and their traditionally hostile stance toward Russia.”  https://www.bbc.com/news/world-us-canada-50180445

And we all thought Russia was just searching for Hillary’s emails and manipulating Facebook ads to influence the 2016 election. Butina is like a modern day Mata Hari – only instead of facing a firing squad for her role as a double agent during the First World War, Butina was sentenced to 18 months in prison after pleading guilty to just ONE count of conspiracy. Her handler was reportedly Alexander Torshin – “…an influential former member of the Russian senate and deputy chairman of the Russian Central Bank.”

One might think they were laundering money through the NRA.

Butina grew up in Siberia and loved playing with guns. Her chief concern was herself however, telling the court she regrets “…ruining my own life.” When she steps off a plane in Russia I wonder what will happen to her? Will she be a returning hero, or will she be sent back to Siberia?

I heard Martha Stewart said that Huffman looked “frumpy” in her prison garb. That immediately ticked me off, I mean really? Martha, Martha, Martha! I would think that once you’ve done time in a women’s prison you’d have a smidgen of empathy for other celebrities suffering the same fate. After all, there are no hair and make-up experts tending to you, no aestheticians or mani-pedis happening behind those walls. I will never again buy her “Living” magazine, no matter how much I think I could craft a beautiful table setting.

So a Russian operative can plot to takeover our democracy, and she gets 18 months in prison and then is deported. A Hollywood star can swindle and bribe her daughter’s way into college, and she gets released after 11 days in prison (out of a 14 day sentence). And then there’s the old news –  a lifestyle “expert” and magazine mogul got caught lying to investigators in an insider trading scandal and she served 5 months in prison followed by 5 months confined to her Connecticut estate.

Then Martha sold her empire for 355 Million US dollars in 2015 telling the media a coverup is so much worse than the original crime. Now for some odd reason she’s associated with Snoop Dog. I hope he will school her about criticizing other female felons while they are whipping up a batch of brownies. Their friendship is the one shining light in this reality show world.

We were recently toasting marshmallows for our own private HGTV episode.

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“In my desperation to be a good mother I talked myself into believing that all I was doing was giving my daughter a fair shot.” Felicity Huffman

I know, I know. GM is out on strike and we just might start a new war with Iran, but I’m still obsessing over Felicity Huffman’s college admission scandal.

Every single parent can relate to this; single moms I met in the Jersey City projects, where I was teaching Head Start ages ago, wanted the best education for their children. Education is supposed to lift you out of poverty.

But those young moms could not pay to endow a chair (the legal equivalent of a bribe) at an elite school. Today they live with luck; will an arbitrary lottery number mean their child gets to go to a charter school? And then, if they make the grades and stay out of trouble, will they even be able to afford a state college without sinking themselves into debt?

And what about suburban desperate housewives? Every single one of us knows of someone, or maybe IS that someone, who twisted the rules a little for their child. I knew moms who had their sons diagnosed with ADHD just so they could have their SAT time lengthened. I heard about moms who didn’t live in our tony district, so they submitted the grandmother’s address. I knew moms who hired college counselors just because everyone else was doing it!

We would pay for SAT prep courses and then pray for the best. Of course most of that was a “legal” attempt at gaming the system. The difference being, in suburban school districts like Rumson-Fair Haven, parents had the money to grease the wheels of the college admission process. In Jersey City, parents could barely survive on food stamps. What does this say about a public school system that is funded with property taxes? What does this say about our country?

WE ARE ALL GUILTY of wanting the very best education for our children! But comparing Felicity Huffman’s sentence of a $30,000 fine, 2 weeks in jail and parole to Tanya McDowell’s 5 year sentence for falsifying her address to get her son into a better school district and taking a plea deal on drug charges is misleading. Sure one mom is white with an infinity pool and one mom is brown living in a homeless shelter, but both of them were guilty and desperate to give their child a “fair” shot at success.

McDowell served 3 years of her sentence and said she would do it again if she had the chance because her son started Kindergarten in his grandmother’s district, and he is now on the Honor Roll.  https://www.oxygen.com/crime-time/tanya-mcdowell-homeless-mom-stealing-education-jail-felicity-huffman-college-scandal

Huffman, on the other hand, may have learned her lesson. She seems remorseful and pleaded guilty. Her daughter will now be identified with this scandal for the rest of her life, whether she actually attends college or not. Bob agrees with John legend, who posted on Twitter that women should NOT go to jail for these non-violent offenses. In a twist of the social media world, men seem to be more feminist and empathic than women who declare themselves feminist!

The questions raised this week about racism and social justice are not new. We are running private-for-profit prisons in order to maintain the illusion that our rule of law is fair. We pay more to incarcerate our citizens than we do for pre-schools and elementary education where more brown boys are labeled “special ed,” or end up suspended for disciplinary problems. Our system is broken, and calling out Felicity Huffman or comparing her with Tanya McDowell misses the point.

Over the summer, I downloaded a first level reader book about owls on my iPad for the Love Bug and caught her reading it to her brother. On her 7th birthday last month I explained the “age of reason” to her, about knowing right from wrong. Her brother starts Kindergarten next year and wants to learn how to play the drums! Our children are modeling our behavior – good, bad and indifferent.

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