Ex-Stanford sailing coach avoids prison in U.S. college admissions scandal

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A former Stanford University sailing coach is set to become the first person to be sentenced in the USA college admissions scandal after admitting he agreed to help wealthy parents secure spots for their children at the school in exchange for bribes.

U.S. District Court Judge Rya W. Zobe was given a recommended sentencing of 13 months in prison for Vandemoer, but Zobe ultimately sided with Vandemoer's defense attorneys, who argued one day in prison was time served because Vandemoer had given the bribes over to Stanford's program rather than pocketing them. This ruling makes John Vandemoer the first person named in the nationwide admissions scandal to be formally sentenced. That student was never on the sailing team, Stanford said, and was not designated as a sailing recruit.

"The fact that, as best I understand it, he was the least culpable of all the coaches certainly says something about what the sentence should be", Zobel said.

In a victim impact statement, Stanford University wrote that it was not taking a stand on whether Vandemoer should spend time behind bars.

Vandemoer's attorney, Robert Fisher, wrote to Judge Zobel in a memorandum on Friday that he should get probation and not a prison sentence, arguing that he didn't pocket any of the money, didn't take any money from the university and that this was his only instance of bad judgement.

California-based Stanford, which fired Vandemoer in March, said in a letter filed ahead of his sentencing it considered his conduct "wholly antithetical to Stanford's core values".

Prosecutors had sought more than a year behind bars. He also apologized to the alumni and current members of the sailing team, saying he is "devastated that the program and the sport would be looked at poorly because of [his] actions".

A third student was identified by the university as having worked with Singer and Vandemoer to get admitted into Stanford, university officials said. In 2016, scheme mastermind Rick Singer gave Vandemoer's sailing program $610,000 in exchange for labeling prospective students as recruits. "The student is no longer on Stanford's campus". Stanford is the only school implicated in the scandal in which all fraudulent money went to university programs. Vandemoer did not pocket any of the money exchanged in the bribes.

Prosecutors said that when that student made a decision to attend another school, Vandemoer agreed to use the same recruiting spot for a different child in exchange for $500,000. Other coaches, such as former Georgetown University soccer coach Gordon Ernst, have pleaded not guilty.

Thirty-three parents have been charged, including former "Desperate Housewives" television star Huffman, who pleaded guilty in May, and Full House television actress Loughlin, who has pleaded not guilty. Of the remaining defendants, actress Felicity Huffman is among those pleading guilty. Loughlin and her husband, fashion designer Mossimo Giannulli, have pleaded not guilty to charges that they paid $500,000 to bribe their two daughters into the University of Southern California.

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