Felicity Huffman’s 14-day sentence for mail fraud and honest services mail fraud resurfaced the story of Tanya McDowell. (Honest services mail fraud, as laid out in the United States v. Gray, states that an employee has an obligation to their employer to provide honest services, and actions which impede upon this, like a bribe, is a type of fraud, thanks Wikipedia!)
Back in 2011, McDowell was charged with first degree larceny for enrolling her son in a school in an area she did not live. She was sentenced to five years in prison and five years probation and, if the memes are to be believed, this is unfair in light of Huffman’s seemingly lenient sentence for bribing an exam proctor.
Inequity in education is an important issue that needs to be addressed, but what hurts this cause is the exclusion of the fact that McDowell was also charged with selling narcotics to undercover officers and that both the drug case and the larceny case sentences were combined per the plea bargain. Her attorney even stated that he attempted to split the cases up but, ‘…prosecutors and the judge would not split the cases up. He said she was facing much more than 15 years in jail if he took all the cases to trial.‘ So the five year sentence was not strictly for the school case. Based on the article, it’s easy enough to decipher, but even the usually reliable Snopes got it wrong, changing the rating on it’s own article about McDowell’s sentence from ‘mixture of truth’ to ‘true’.
In Huffman’s case, to level the scales, her daughter should be removed from the school, but in McDowell’s case, what’s the solution? The answer is worthy of discussion and shouldn’t be muddied with false martyrs and misappropriated news stories.