Ex-Stanford coach avoids 13 month prison sentence in college admissions scandal

First sentence in college admissions scandal

Last Updated Jun 12, 2019 8:05 PM EDT

Boston — The first sentence was handed down Wednesday in the college admissions scandal. The former coach of Stanford University's sailing team was sentenced to just one day in prison.

John Vandemoer walked out of Boston federal court a free man, having gotten credit for already serving his single day in jail. The father of two young children was visibly relieved.

Prosecutors were seeking a 13 month sentence for the former Stanford sailing coach, who had agreed to accept more than $600,000 from Rick Singer, the alleged mastermind of the college admissions scandal.

But Vandemoer never pocketed any of that money, using it instead to buy boats and gear for the sailing program. On Wednesday, a judge kept asking prosecutors, how is that a bribe?

John Vandemoer
Former Stanford University sailing coach John Vandemoer leaves court on June 12, 2019 in Boston. Getty

"I did not take any money personally. All donations from Singer went directly to Stanford and the sailing team," Vandemoer said.

Stanford fired him the day he was indicted. But Vandemoer wasn't just the first to be sentenced. He was also one of the first to plead guilty and to own up.

"He is remorseful, apologizes to his family," said his attorney, Robert Fisher, in March.

The stage is now set for the 49 other defendants, parents who paid hundreds of thousands to get their children into elite schools and coaches who accepted and pocketed the cash. Of the remaining defendants, actress Felicity Huffman is among those pleading guilty. Actress Lori Loughlin is among those still fighting the charges.

"I think anybody who's awaiting sentencing will be tempted to look at this as a benchmark that will play out in their favor. I think that would be a mistake," said legal analyst Steve Meister.

Vandemoer's attorneys said he already paid dearly, losing his job and reputation. Unlike others involved in this case, no one was denied admission to Stanford because of the coach's actions. The judge seemed very sympathetic to that argument.