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Why we won’t see mug shots for Lori Loughlin, Felicity Huffman

Lori Loughlin and Felicity Huffman are among at least 40 people indicted in a sweeping college admissions bribery scandal. | AP photo

The Department of Justice says it doesn’t plan to release mug shots of actresses Lori Loughlin and Felicity Huffman, a move that is sure to disappoint anyone enjoying the schadenfreude factor in the massive college-admissions cheating scandal dubbed Operation Varsity Blues.

Loughlin, who, along with husband Mossimo Giannulli, is accused of bribing officials at the University of Southern California, and Huffman, who allegedly paid off a college exam proctor, are charged with denying honest services to the rest of the public. So then why doesn’t the public get to see their booking photos?

The DOJ and U.S. Marshals Services say their policies prohibit releasing the photos because doing so doesn’t serve the agencies’ needs if the person in question has already been apprehended. In other words, putting them out post-arrest only serves the public’s fascination.

The website for the U.S. Marshals Service, which charged with apprehending fugitives and transporting prisoners and witnesses, says it may release photos of criminals to aid in the capture of criminals still on the lam. But “once a prisoner has been arrested, the general rule is that no release should be made because (the) release of photographs of that prisoner to the media or public would not serve law enforcement purposes.”


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DOJ spokeswoman Elizabeth McCarthy told USA TODAY her agency follows the same guideline.

So what about a Freedom of Information request?

The government no longer grants routine access to federal mug shots through FOIA, a decision which was upheld by the Supreme Court in 2016. Now anyone requesting a mug shot through FOIA must provide legal justification for its release that outweighs the defendant’s right to privacy.

According to the USMS, “Booking photographs are generally not subject to discretionary release under the FOIA because they almost always reside in records systems protected by the Privacy Act.”

The agency said its general counsels’ office must determine “either that the requester has made the requisite showing that the public interest in the requested booking photograph outweighs the privacy interest at stake or that other factors specific to the particular FOIA request warrant processing that request.”