predecessor Georgetown University A tennis coach who coached former President Barack Obama’s family has been sentenced to two-and-a-half years in prison for accepting more than $3 million in bribes for helping wealthy parents deceive their children into schools.
Gordon Ernst’s verdict on Friday is the harshest punishment so far in the sprawling college admissions bribery scandal It reveals that some wealthy parents go to great lengths to get their children into America’s top schools.
Prosecutors had sought four years in prison for Ernst, 55, who pleaded guilty to accepting nearly $3.5 million in bribes over 10 years to designate the children of wealthy parents as recruits, even though they would not normally be admitted to college.
In a letter to the judge, Ernst apologized and promised to spend the rest of his life trying to make it up.
“There is absolutely no excuse for my wrongdoing. When I was terminally ill with self-hatred, I felt the victim and justified my actions with a series of grievances and a series of lies that I would tell myself in order to make I rationalized my behavior over the years,” Ernst wrote.
“Looking back, I lacked the honesty and humility to do the right thing and ask for help.”
Ernst’s letter describes the Rhode Island With a demanding and physically abusive father — another Rhode Island tennis legend, the late Dick Ernst — he called him “a coach and a tyrant rather than a father.” Ernst’s mother told the Boston Globe that her husband was never abusive.
Ernst played hockey and tennis at Brown University in Providence before getting coaching jobs at Northwestern University and the University of Pennsylvania. In 2006, he was offered a position as head coach of men’s and women’s tennis at Georgetown University and was introduced to an admissions counselor by a friend two years later. Rick Singerthe mastermind of the bribery scheme, Ernst told the judge.
Of the six positions where Ernst recruited tennis players each year, he routinely offered ineligible students at least two — often up to five — in exchange for bribes, according to prosecutors. Over the years, he helped nearly two dozen students get into the school fraudulently, Assistant U.S. Attorney Kristin Kearney told the judge.
Unlike some of the other coaches charged in the case, who paid bribes to their sports programs, Ernst pocketed nearly all of it, prosecutors said. Kearney said he used the bribe money to pay for his daughter’s expensive private school tuition and to buy a house on Cape Cod.
Defense attorneys asked the judge to sentence him to about a year in prison, saying in court documents that Ernst, like the tragic Greek mythological figure Icarus, “flyed so close to the sun that he forgot his wings were made of wax. of”.
Surrounded by families with wealth and prestige in Georgetown, Ernst told himself that he accepted and didn’t hurt anyone or his team bribehis lawyers wrote.
Ernst has been trying to turn his life around since his arrest in 2019 and has worked part-time as a tennis coach, hockey referee and rental car cleaner, Ernst’s lawyers said.
“Gordy’s fall from the White House to the tabloids — a fall from grace much longer than what the court sees in a typical case,” his lawyers wrote.
Ernst left Georgetown in 2018 after the school conducted an internal investigation into “athletic credential violations” among students he enrolled, concluding that he had violated admissions rules.
He was later hired by the University of Rhode Island, which claimed to have not been informed of the admissions violations. He resigned from that school shortly after his arrest.
Ernst was one of 54 convicted Varsity Blues Action A case that made headlines in March 2019.
The last defendant was linked to investigate Last month, jurors were acquitted on all counts. Another defendant was pardoned by former President Donald Trump, and a third was granted a deal that is expected to result in the dismissal of his case.
Before Friday, the harshest punishment was a 15-month prison sentence for John Wilson, who was ordered by a jury to pay $220,000 to have his son designated as a USC water polo recruit and an additional $1 million dollars to buy his twins.the way of the daughters into Harvard and Stanford. Wilson maintains he is innocent and remains free when he appeals the case.
Only a few defendants remain to be sentenced.
Among them was Singh, the scheme’s mastermind, who pleaded guilty to a series of charges in 2019. Singer secretly began working with investigators before the case became public and helped the government build a broad prosecution. He is expected to be sentenced in September.