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Dec 31 2011

SAT Cheater’s 60 Minutes Interview Is Another Stupid Move

SAT test-taker and cheat Sam Eshaghoff and his lawyer appear tomorrow on 60 Minutes to discuss the criminal case and why he cheated. Normally, I get wanted to capitalize on your 15 minutes of fame, even if its 15 minutes of infamy, but this is a bone-headed move that makes you wonder how smart he is (never mind his lawyer).

You see, Sam got off pretty lightly as far as folks charged with felonies are concerned in Nassau County. The DA allowed him to plead to a misdemeanor and do community service tutoring underprivileged kids as opposed to jail time. In an earlier blog post I agreed that jail time was not necessary for a first offense, non violent offender. But allowing him to tutor as his community service I think was wrong; normally defendants sign up for community service and are given whatever job is next in line – picking up trash, sweeping roadways, etc. The idea is letting folks who can select their own community service do whatever they want is not really punishment and can lead to abuse. But, for whatever reason, DA Rice made an exception and allowed him to do this form of service. Well, now that may be off the table because in snippets of the 60 Minutes interview that were released by CBS, Eshaghoff comes off as an arrogant, unrepentant person who doe snot understand the impact of his actions. His lawyer, Martin Emouna, comes off as an attorney who doesn’t understand that his client has not yet been sentenced. Why any attorney would let his client speak on camera in between plea and sentence and then show that he is not really remorseful is beyond me. Here is one of his comments:

“A kid who has a horrible grade-point average, who, no matter how much he studies is going to totally bomb this test,” says Eshaghoff, “By giving him an amazing score, I totally give him . . . a new lease on life. He’s going to go to a totally new college . . . be bound for a totally new career . . . new path in life.”

So that he was essentially an SAT Robin Hood (who charged $2,500- $5,000 per test). He does not consider that he took away that “new lease on life” from a kid who busted his butt, studied hard, paid for tutoring but just missed the cut of the school of his choice. On that issue our resident genius says:

I feel confident defending the fact that [my clients] getting into the schools that they ended up getting into didn’t really affect other people

OK Sam, do you know how college admission works? There are a limited number of spots for a high number of applicants – people get rejected all the time and often it is SAT score that keeps kids out from consideration. Now a spokesperson for the Nassau DA’s office is saying in today’s Newsday that in light of his comments and lack of remorse they will recommend to the court that he not be allowed to tutor but get in line for the usual drudgery of community service every one else gets:

A source close to the DA said that the type of community service Eshaghoff will complete is not set in stone, and that Rice is not likely to allow him to tutor students when “it’s clear he still doesn’t understand the importance of ethics or honesty. “The community service . . . will almost certainly be significantly less sophisticated work than originally planned,” the source said, adding that trash pickup, janitorial work and park maintenance are more likely.

No word by the way about whether he will have to disgorge all the money he made from his fraudulent scheme like most other defendants have to do as well. What I cannot fathom is why he and his lawyer would not just wait a few more weeks for this notoriety and do this interview AFTER he had been sentenced. Mr. Emouna will likely have to explain this decision to his clients, his parents (paying his fee) and the court. Especially if he ends up getting a harsher result than anticipated.

4 comments

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  1. Pandora

    There are many factual errors in this post. The highest he charged was $2500 for example, not $5000. He only admitted to more than 10″ tests taken, not 20. There are many many ways that kids are displaced in the admissions process, including patronage, nepotism, legacy, and affirmative action. I could go on and on. Finally, one should not characterize until the entire interview is aired, obviously the sound bites are controversial to raise ratings and audience of the show.

  2. Oscar Michelen

    Pandora: Other than the fee issue what are the other “many factual errors” that you say are contained in the post? (By the way, I obtained that number from other sources and I hardly think it matters how much he charged anyway). All of the other ways that you refer to how kids are displaced make it all the more important that the objective standards used for college admission are free from fraud. Also, did you ever hear of the phrase “Two wrongs don’t make a right?” And how can you possibly equate legacy and affirmative action with cheating and passing yourself off as on someone else. I don’t need to hear the whole interview to know that it was a misguided mistake to speak in between plea and sentence especially on a national talk show. If you are going to speak, all he should have said was acknowledge his guilt and apologize for the harm he did to students who were kept out by his fraud. Finally, the DA treats felony shoplifters much harsher than she did this kid. He should be thankful and keep his mouth shut.

  3. bellhead

    Oscar,

    Pandora is completely correct in stating that their are more kids displaced in the admissions process due to patronage, nepotism, legacy, and affirmative action. A glaring example of this is our former president George Bush who attended undergrad at Yale and grad at Harvard. As far as his punishment convicting him of a felony is extremely harsh as this is his first criminal offense and more than likely outside of traffic violations will be his last. Convicting him of felony would basically end his chances of ever pursuing any type of professional career and would harshly punish him in regards to his crime. Also you mention that felony shoplifters are treated much harsher than him correct, but how many of those felony shoplifters have a rap sheet bigger than a dictionary?

    1. Oscar Michelen

      I also don’t think he should end up with a felony record. I just don’t think he should try and rationalize his behavior by claiming he was trying to do good. It’s just simple math, the great probability is that for every one kid he helped get into a top school, one other kid was kept off. And just because there is nepotism in the world, doesn’t justify his fraud and the other students’ cheating. What I don’t understand is why parents of these kids would condone having their kids get into a school under false pretenses. Where is our societal ethos? It’s like cheating on the NYC marathon – what’s the point? As far as felony shoplifters go, even if they have no record, in Nassau County they end up with a misdemeanor, usually probation and lots of community service (which they don’t get to choose). My point in mentioning felony shoplifting is that this kid and more importantly his lawyer should not look a gift horse in the mouth. They had no reason to provoke the DA’s office while the case was still open. You and Pandora can try and rationalize Mr Eshaghoff’s fraud any way you want, but the fact is it harmed people, it broke the law and it was nothing short of foolish to speak to 60 Minutes before the case was finalized.

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