A judge on Tuesday ordered USC to turn over sensitive internal documents to Robert Zangrillo, a Miami investor charged with securing his daughter’s admission to the school through fraud and bribery.
The ruling by U.S. Magistrate Judge Page Kelley was a victory for Zangrillo, whose defense hinges on the theory that USC routinely shunts the children of donors and prospective donors into a “VIP” pool of applicants, who are more likely to be admitted than students who apply through the standard process.
Kelley’s order offered a glimpse of a legal duel that has played out largely in secret, litigated in sealed court papers and at closed-door hearings. At issue, according to the judge’s 19-page order, are spreadsheets that tracked VIP applicants and 20 emails between university officials discussing admissions decisions and the lobbying that went into them by donors, trustees and other influential figures within the USC community.
For Zangrillo and other parents charged with defrauding USC, the contested documents could play a central role in a defense their attorneys have already begun floating: that USC could not have been swindled by parents who routed money to university coffers and, in exchange, expected their children would be admitted, if this was precisely the practice endorsed by the school’s administration.
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