A former sailing coach for Stanford University, the first person sentenced in a sweeping college admissions scandal, will not have to spend a single day in prison.
John Vandemoer was sentenced to one day in prison on Wednesday for his role in helping children of wealthy parents fraudulently bypass regular admissions for elite colleges like Stanford. A federal judge accepted his lawyer’s request for a one-day sentence and counted it as time served. He must now pay a $10,000 fine and spend two years under supervised release, with six months in home confinement.
The sailing coach had already plead guilty to accepting $770,000 in bribes accepted between 2016 and 2018, though it didn’t go straight to his bank account. He put the money toward the sailing program, a fact that the U.S. District Court Judge Rya W. Zobel appeared to consider. (Stanford told the judge it is working to redirect the money to a worthy cause.)
“From what I know about the other cases, there is an agreement that Vandemoer is probably the least culpable of all the defendants in all of these cases,” said Zobel, NBC News reported. “All the money he got went directly to the sailing program.”
But the federal attorney sought 13 months in prison to send a message about the scandal as a whole. In March, the Department of Justice charged 50 people allegedly led by Rick Singer for money laundering, bribery, and falsifying documents in a scheme that ushered in students to colleges like Stanford, UC Berkeley, UC Los Angeles, University of Southern California and Harvard University.
Even parents like Lori Loughlin, known as Aunt Becky from Full House, and Felicity Huffman, from Desperate Housewives, were charged for spending $500,000 and $15,000, respectively. Loughlin pled not guilty and now faces 40 years in prison while Huffman plead guilty and faces four months in prison.
“The damage on Stanford goes much further,” said Assistant U.S. Attorney Eric Rosen in court. “The actions undermine the confidence in the college admissions process.”
With several California colleges and parents ensnared in the federal investigation, state lawmakers are pushing forward a bill that would bar special admissions without three college administrators signing off. Less than two percent of students at the UC system and about one percent in the Cal State system are admitted with exceptions, LA Times reported.
A bill by San Francisco Assemblymember Phil Ting is also underway that would require public universities to report annually about admissions pushed through by links to a donor or alumni. In California’s grand tradition of watering down bills, the legislation initially would have punished colleges who failed to comply from accepting Cal Grants.