Gordon Caplan, the suspended co-chairman of Willkie Farr & Gallagher, made his first appearance in Boston federal court Wednesday alongside a host of other parents accused of paying bribes to get their kids into top colleges.
Caplan appeared briefly before U.S. Magistrate Judge M. Page Kelley of the District of Massachusetts, along with his defense attorney, Joshua Levy of Ropes & Gray. Levy told the judge his client was waiving a preliminary conference. Caplan was asked if he understood the charges against him and that he faced a maximum term of 20 years behind bars; he said “yes, Your Honor” to each question.
About a dozen parents made their initial appearances two by two on Wednesday. All of them, including Caplan, have been charged with one count of conspiracy to commit mail fraud and honest services mail fraud.
Caplan was called at the same time as Lori Loughlin, the actress known for her role on TV’s “Full House,” and her husband Mossimo Giannulli, a fashion designer. The couple is represented by Latham & Watkins.
After the appearance, Caplan did not respond to questions from ALM, and his lawyers, Levy and Patrick Smith, declined to comment.
Caplan, whose firm said he has been put on leave and relieved of management responsibilities in the wake of the charges, is among 50 people caught up in the college admissions scandal, which centers on consultant William “Rick” Singer. Prosecutors allege Singer was paid fees to put parents, including Caplan, in touch with corrupt test proctors who would ensure their children did well on the ACT or SAT college admissions exams.
Other parents are alleged to have worked with Singer to pretend their children were high-achieving athletes so that corrupt coaches at several schools could push for them to be recruited. And some are accused of paying Singer to have other people take classes online in place of their children.
Dozens of reporters, photojournalists and cameramen stationed themselves at the front and back doors of the John Joseph Moakley U.S. Courthouse in Boston hours before Wednesday’s proceedings were set to start. Most of them were there for Loughlin and Felicity Huffman, an actress on “Desperate Housewives” represented by Foley Hoag, who is also charged in the scheme. Both women were escorted to waiting SUVs.
More than 32 defendants, including Caplan, were charged by complaint and most have yet to be indicted or arraigned. Some are reportedly in talks with prosecutors to plead guilty in exchange for a reduced sentence.
Peter Jan Sartorio, a packaged foods businessman who was one of the parents charged in the bribery scheme, said in a court filing that he planned to plead guilty to an unspecified charge or charges later this month. He is represented by Donnelly, Conroy & Gelhaar, a Boston firm known for white-collar defense work.
One of the defendants who was scheduled to appear Wednesday, Devin Sloane, said in a court filing Tuesday that he and his lawyers “reasonably expect” to reach a deal with prosecutors. Sloane, a Los Angeles man said by the government to run a company providing drinking water and wastewater systems, is represented by lawyers from Greenberg Traurig, Morgan, Lewis & Bockius and Hochman Salkin Toscher Perez.
Also scheduled to appear Wednesday were Jane Buckingham, represented by Goodwin Procter; Manuel Henriquez, represented by Orrick Herrington & Sutcliffe, and his wife Elizabeth Henriquez, represented by Ropes & Gray; Bruce Isackson, represented by Quinn Emanuel Urquhart & Sullivan; and Toby MacFarlane, repped by Arguedas, Cassman, Headley & Goldman.
Many parents, including Caplan, are said by prosecutors to have been caught on a wiretap, or in conversations that Singer recorded, discussing the details of the alleged schemes. Caplan is quoted in court papers as saying that the scheme is “a bit weird” and expresses concerns about being caught, but ultimately goes along.
“To be honest, I’m not worried about the moral issue here,” Caplan is quoted as saying. “I’m worried about the, if [my daughter] is caught doing that, you know, she’s finished.”
Several of the country’s top law firms, as well as specialist boutiques and solo practitioners, have flocked to Boston in recent days as wave after wave of defendants made their initial appearances. Ropes & Gray has entered appearances on behalf of at least three defendants, and some 15 other Big Law firms have appeared, such as White & Case; Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom; and Covington & Burling.
Other attorneys and firms to have shown up on the docket as defense counsel include Pierce Bainbridge, Smyser Kaplan & Veselka, Miner Orkand Siddall and Martin G. Weinberg.