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College admissions scandal: Why we won't see mug shots for Lori Loughlin, Felicity Huffman

USA TODAY logo USA TODAY 3/14/2019 Jayme Deerwester

FILE - This Sept. 17, 2017 file photo shows actress Felicity Huffman at the 69th Primetime Emmy Awards in Los Angeles. Huffman and Lori Loughlin have worked steadily as respected actresses and remained recognizable if not-quite-A-list names for decades.Neither has ever had a whiff of criminality or scandal tied to their name until both were charged with fraud and conspiracy Tuesday along with dozens of others in a scheme that according to federal prosecutors saw wealthy parents pay bribes to get their children into some of the nation’s top colleges. (Photo by Jordan Strauss/Invision/AP, File) © The Associated Press Felicity Huffman The Department of Justice says it doesn't plan to release mug shots of actresses Lori Loughlin and Felicity Huffman, a move that is sure to disappoint anyone enjoying the schadenfreude factor in the massive college-admissions cheating scandal dubbed Operation Varsity Blues.

Loughlin, who, along with husband Mossimo Giannulli, is accused of bribing officials at the University of Southern California, and Huffman, who allegedly paid off a college exam proctor, are charged with denying honest services to the rest of the public.  Actor Lori Loughlin appears in this court sketch at a hearing for a racketeering case involving the allegedly fraudulent admission of children to elite universities, at the U.S. federal courthouse in downtown Los Angeles © Reuters/Stringer . Actor Lori Loughlin appears in this court sketch at a hearing for a racketeering case involving the allegedly fraudulent admission of children to elite universities, at the U.S. federal courthouse in downtown Los Angeles So then why doesn't the public get to see their booking photos?

The DOJ and U.S. Marshals Services say their policies prohibit releasing the photos because doing so doesn't serve the agencies' needs if the person in question has already been apprehended. In other words, putting them out post-arrest only serves the public's fascination.

a man standing in front of a door: Actress Felicity Huffman is seen inside the Edward R. Roybal Federal Building and U.S. Courthouse in Los Angeles, on March 12. © Provided by USA TODAY, a division of Gannett Satellite Information Network, Inc. Actress Felicity Huffman is seen inside the Edward R. Roybal Federal Building and U.S. Courthouse in Los Angeles, on March 12.

The website for the U.S. Marshals Service, which charged with apprehending fugitives and transporting prisoners and witnesses, says it may release photos of criminals to aid in the capture of criminals still on the lam. But "once a prisoner has been arrested, the general rule is that no release should be made because (the) release of photographs of that prisoner to the media or public would not serve law enforcement purposes.”

DOJ spokeswoman Elizabeth McCarthy told USA TODAY her agency follows the same guideline.

So what about a Freedom of Information request?

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The government no longer grants routine access to federal mug shots through FOIA, a decision which was upheld by the Supreme Court in 2016. Now anyone requesting a mug shot through FOIA must provide legal justification for its release that outweighs the defendant's right to privacy.

According to the USMS, "Booking photographs are generally not subject to discretionary release under the FOIA because they almost always reside in records systems protected by the Privacy Act." 

The agency said its general counsels' office must determine "either that the requester has made the requisite showing that the public interest in the requested booking photograph outweighs the privacy interest at stake or that other factors specific to the particular FOIA request warrant processing that request.” 

Related slideshow: Celebrity mugshots (via Photo Services)


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