Donna Heinel, ex-USC athletic director, enters plea in college admissions bribery scandal

Donna Heinel College Admissions Scandal

Donna Heinel, ex-USC women’s athletic director, is seen leaving a Boston federal courthouse on Monday. Heinel entered a plea of not guilty in the college admissions scandal. Photo: TV screenshot

Donna Heinel, USC’s former women’s athletic director, who has fallen from grace after being indicted and arrested in the nationwide college admissions bribery scandal, appeared in a Boston federal courtroom earlier this week.

Enters not guilty plea

Heinel, 57, a well-known member of the LGBTQ university sports community, stood before a judge in the John Joseph Moakley United States Courthouse on Monday and entered a plea of not guilty, as did 11 other defendants.

They have been accused in an elaborate racketeering conspiracy that has ensnared coaches, test administrators, and associates of Rick Singer, the alleged ringleader, according to court documents.

Heinel surrendered her passport and is not allowed to travel outside the United States. Her next court hearing is October 1, according to court documents.

College admissions scandal

Prosecutors have said that Singer collected $25 million from dozens of wealth parents who wanted their kids to gain admission to elite schools and bribed coaches to recruit them as athletes and rigged entrance exams. Actresses Felicity Huffman and Lori Laughlin are two wealthy parents who have been charged in the scandal. Loughlin and her husband, Mossimo Giannulli, who also has been charged, are accused of paying more than $500,000 in bribes as their daughters were applying to USC.

Both of the daughters are students at the university. Olivia Jade Giannulli has become something of a poster child for a privileged, spoiled, and arrogant teenagers. Some Giannulli’s YouTube videos show her bragging about not caring about school and hoping that the university would allow her to prioritize her cosmetics line over attending classes.

USC has said it will examine all cases of students who gained admission through cheating and decide what actions would be taken.

Fired from USC

Heinel, who was fired from USC shortly after the indictment was unsealed, is accused by prosecutors of receiving more than $1.3 million in bribes.

No universities or students have been charged in the scandal.

Before the admissions scandal broke, Heinel, who, along with her wife and two children, live in the Los Angeles area, encouraged visibility for gay and lesbian collegiate athletes.

About the author

Phillip Zonkel

Award-winning journalist Phillip Zonkel spent 17 years at Long Beach's Press-Telegram, where he was the first reporter in the paper's history to have a beat covering the city's vibrant LGBTQ. He also created and ran the popular and innovative LGBTQ news blog, Out in the 562.

He won two awards and received a nomination for his reporting on the local LGBTQ community, including a two-part investigation that exposed anti-gay bullying of local high school students and the school districts' failure to implement state mandated protections for LGBTQ students.

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