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A former Georgetown University tennis coach who once coached former President Barack Obama’s family was sentenced Friday to 2 1/2 years in prison for pocketing more than $3 million in bribes in exchange for helping wealthy parents cheat their kids’ way into the school.

The sentence for Gordon Ernst is by far the toughest punishment handed down so far in the sprawling college admissions bribery scandal that shined a light on the lengths some rich parents will go to get their kids into the nation’s most selective schools.

Prosecutors had sought four years behind bars for Ernst, 55, who admitted to accepting nearly $3.5 million in bribes over a decade to designate the children of deep-pocketed parents as recruits even though they weren’t Georgetown-caliber players.

In a letter written to the judge, Ernst apologized and promised to spend the rest of his life trying to make amends.

“There is absolutely no excuse for my wrongful acts. While I became sick inside with self-hatred, I felt the victim and justified my actions with a list of grievances and a host of lies I would tell myself in order to rationalize my behavior for years,” Ernst wrote. “Looking back, I lacked the honesty and humility to do what was right and ask for help,” he said.

In his letter, Ernst described growing up in Rhode Island with a demanding and physically abusive father — another Rhode Island tennis legend, the late Dick Ernst — whom he called more a “coach and tyrant than a dad.” 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. He was offered the head men and women’s tennis coach job at Georgetown in 2006 and was introduced by a friend two years later to admissions consultant Rick Singer, the mastermind of the bribery scheme, Ernst told the judge.

Of the six spots Ernst got every year to recruit tennis players, he regularly gave at least two — and often up to five — to unqualified students in exchange for bribes, according to prosecutors. Over the years, he helped nearly two dozen students fraudulently get into the school, Assistant U.S. Attorney Kristen Kearney told the judge.

And unlike some of the other coaches charged in the case who were bribed in the form of money for their sports programs, Ernst pocketed almost all of the money for himself, prosecutors said. He used the bribe money to pay for his daughters’ expensive private school tuition and buy a home on Cape Cod, Kearney said.

Defense attorneys asked the judge for a sentence of about a year, saying in court papers that Ernst, like the tragic Greek mythological figure Icarus, “flew too close to the sun and forgot his wings were made of wax.”

Surrounded by families with wealth and prestige at Georgetown, Ernst told himself he wasn’t hurting anyone or his team by accepting the bribes, his lawyers wrote.

Ernst has tried to turn his life around since his 2019 arrest and has worked part time as a tennis instructor, hockey referee, and a rental car cleaner, Ernst’s lawyers said.

“Gordie has fallen from the White House to the tabloids – a fall from grace far longer than the Court sees in a typical case,” his lawyers wrote.

Ernst left Georgetown in 2018 after an internal investigation launched over what the school described as “irregularities in the athletic credentials” of students he was recruiting concluded that he violated admissions rules.

He was later hired by the University of Rhode Island, which claimed it wasn’t told about the admissions rules violations. He resigned from that school shortly after his arrest.

Ernst is among 54 people who have been convicted in the Operation Varsity Blues case that exploded into headlines in March 2019.

The last defendant linked to the investigation to go to trial was acquitted by jurors on all counts last month. Another defendant was pardoned by former President Donald Trump and a third defendant got a deal that’s expected to lead to the dismissal of his case.

Before Friday, the toughest punishment had been 15 months in prison for John Wilson, a former Staples Inc. executive convicted by jurors of paying $220,000 to have his son designated as a University of Southern California water polo recruit and an additional $1 million to buy his twin daughters’ ways into Harvard and Stanford. Wilson maintains that he is innocent and remains free while he appeals his case.

Only a handful of defendants remain to be sentenced.

They include the scheme’s mastermind, Singer, who pleaded guilty in 2019 to a slew of charges. Singer secretly began cooperating with investigators before the case became public and helped the government build the massive prosecution. He’s expected to be sentenced in September.

____

Follow Alanna Durkin Richer on Twitter at twitter.com/aedurkinricher

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Tags: college admissions scandal georgetown university gordon ernst million in bribes the university admissions rules former president to be sentenced in exchange into the school told the judge georgetown at georgetown in prison tennis coach rhode island expected

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Francesco Totti goes public with stunning new girlfriend Noemi Bocchi after splitting from wife of 17 years Ilary Blasi

FORMER Roma star Francesco Totti has made his new relationship public following his split from his ex-wife Ilary Blasi.

Totti, 46, is now dating Noemi Bocchi but he was married to Italian model and TV presenter Blasi for 17 years - they parted ways in July of this year.

3Francesco Totti and Noemi Bocchi made the front cover of a leading Italian celebrity magazineCredit: Diva magazine 3Francesco Totti with his ex-wife Ilary BlasiCredit: Getty 3Ilary Blasi has been accused of cheating by Francesco TottiCredit: Rex

The couple had three children together but their marriage fell apart when the Serie A legend claimed his wife was not there when he "needed her most".

The ex-footballer's father had passed away due to Covid-19 and he has admitted he struggled to deal with it mentally.

Totti also claims he found evidence of her having an alleged affair when looking to her phone.

The Roma legend has already moved on though and photos have emerged of him with his new girlfriend.

READ MORE ON WAGSGABRIEL'S ANGEL Arsenal star Martinelli's stunning Wag is medical student Isabella Rousso

Italian magazine Diva e Donna published snaps of them together just prior to Totti's divorce battle getting underway in court.

The 2006 World Cup winner and Bocchi were seen outside a restaurant called L'isola del Pescatore.

He was apparently out for a surprise birthday party organised by his new girlfriend with close friends and Totti's children invited.

This is reportedly the place he had asked Blasi to marry him in the early 2000s.

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Tensions between the Blasi and Totti had been rising through the years after a story emerged in 2020 where Totti said he nearly broke up with his wife after she brought home a hairless cat.

Totti was a one club man in his playing days featuring an incredible 785 times for Roma.

He scored 307 goals for the club in his 25-year career helping them win one Serie A title and two Coppa Italia trophies.

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