“Varsity Blues” parents bracing for a court battle next month want to pull the plug on all video.
The federal court in Boston has allowed complete access to the college scam case via Zoom — at times drawing a full house, especially last summer when actress Lori Loughlin was sentenced to five months in prison.
Now defendants Gamal Abdelaziz and John Wilson “respectfully request that this Court reconsider its decision to livestream the upcoming trial by Zoom,” a motion filed Monday states.
They go into great detail about why the pandemic-era access should be dropped like a bad case of the virus, adding “an unfettered livestream broadcast would turn the trial into a media frenzy.”
First Amendment lawyer Harvey Silverglate said the motion should be tossed.
“This whole case smacks of spoiled-brat syndrome and this is just another step in that direction,” he told the Herald. “I think it’s also unconstitutional to limit the press.”
Abdelaziz of Las Vegas, the former president of a Wynn resort in China, and Wilson, a Massachusetts real estate developer, are both accused of being part of the college admissions scam to land their kids in the University of Southern California.
They have both pleaded not guilty and the trial is set to start Sept. 13, with jury selection the week before.
They argue the federal court should use overflow rooms, as was the norm pre-pandemic, and not flip on the video switch.
“Allowing public access to the trial proceedings via Zoom is the modern equivalent of broadcasting the trial on television. The publicity resulting from such a livestream would undermine the integrity of the judicial process,” they argue in their brief.
They add jurors “will be exposed to an onslaught of media coverage” and live coverage “would make it more difficult for the Court to enforce witness sequestration.”
Others, they add, could be reluctant to testify.
“A live broadcast may chill witnesses’ willingness to testify. Moreover, even those witnesses who do testify will likely be influenced by the knowledge that they have a nationwide live audience,” the motion states.
To date, 32 parents have pleaded guilty in the case and 13 others accused, including the mastermind of the admissions scam William “Rick” Singer, have also pleaded guilty. Former President Donald Trump granted parent Robert Zangrillo a pardon.
Singer is the prosecution’s star witness.
Lastly, the two dads say opening up the trial for all to see “will make it impossible for the Court to enforce the rules against photographing or videotaping the proceedings.”
Cameras have never been allowed in federal courts.