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College Admissions Scam Update: Lelling And Defense Accuse Each Other Of Judge-Shopping

Both sides of the college admissions scandal are accusing one another of judge shopping.

Defense attorneys for several parents indicted for allegedly paying bribes to get their children into college have sent a letter to Massachusetts District Court Chief Judge Patti Saris, asking her to remove Judge Nathaniel Gorton from their cases.

In response, U.S. Attorney for Massachusetts Andrew Lelling accused the defense attorneys of looking for a more lenient judge, calling the attorneys "disingenuous."

Gorton is the judge assigned to the indictment of David Sidoo, a Canadian parent accused of paying $200,000 to have someone else take the SAT instead of his sons to  get them into Chapman University, in Orange, California, and the University of California at Berkeley, where they eventually enrolled.

Two other parents, Gregory and Amy Colburn, of Palo Alto, California, were later added to the indictment.

The allegedly fraudulent scores were also sent to Boston University, Boston College and Northeastern University.

Tuesday, a superseding indictment added 16 other parents to the case, including actor Lori Loughlin, former Northeastern University Corporation member Manuel Henriquez and Hyannisport investor John Wilson. The parents had earlier been charged, but not indicted.

"None of our clients has any connection to Mr. Sidoo. None of our clients has ever met, spoken with, or done bisuness with Mr. Sidoo," the letter states. "We do not believe that any of our clients had even heard of Mr. Sidoo until a few weeks ago."

The attorneys accused Lelling of "judge-shopping" by attaching their clients' indictments to Sidoos, and thereby assigning them to Judge Gorton.

They asked Saris to have their cases separated and randomly assigned instead.

Lelling fired back.

"[T]hey want a different judge because they perceive Judge Gorton as imposing longer sentences in criminal cases than other judges in this district," Lelling said in his letter.

A spokeswoman for Lelling said he was not available for an interview.

Fred Thys Twitter Reporter
Fred Thys reports on politics and higher education for WBUR.

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