Lori Loughlin, Felicity Huffman’s mug shots: Why won’t they be released?

Both Lori Loughlin and Felicity Huffman were taken into custody and released on bond this week in connection with a bombshell college admissions alleged scam that was first revealed on Tuesday, following a yearlong FBI investigation dubbed “Operation Varsity Blues.”

Since then, all eyes have been on the two stars, who are among 50 people – including more than 30 parents and nine coaches – charged in the nationwide scheme, which allegedly involved bribing insiders to get specific children into top schools. Celebrities flooded social media with tweets and memes mocking the pair as updates on their case trickled out.

Many discussed Huffman’s Los Angeles home being swarmed by FBI agents, who showed up with their guns drawn early Tuesday. A visibly exhausted Huffman was later spotted in court wearing a navy sweatshirt, oversized glasses and a ponytail. Her arms were often folded in front of her and she was expressionless after posting a $250,000 bond

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Felicity Huffman is seen inside the Edward R. Roybal Federal Building and U.S. Courthouse in Los Angeles, on March 12, 2019.

Felicity Huffman is seen inside the Edward R. Roybal Federal Building and U.S. Courthouse in Los Angeles, on March 12, 2019. (DAVID MCNEW/AFP/Getty Images)

Loughlin, who was filming in British Columbia when authorities named her a suspect in their probe, didn’t appear in court until the following day. She was pictured in a courthouse sketch with her arms folded, wearing a white turtleneck, glasses and disheveled hair that was parted to the side before the judge agreed to release her on $1 million bond.

While these images circulated online Tuesday and Wednesday, some people following the investigation were wondering what happened to the actresses’ booking photos — and when would they be released to the public. Though Google searches for the images have spiked this week, it appears many will be disappointed to discover the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) doesn’t plan on releasing them.

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Lori Loughlin, left, appears in this court sketch at the U.S. federal courthouse in downtown Los Angeles, Calif. on March 13, 2019.

Lori Loughlin, left, appears in this court sketch at the U.S. federal courthouse in downtown Los Angeles, Calif. on March 13, 2019. (REUTERS/Mona Shafer Edwards)

On Thursday morning, the DOJ and U.S. Marshals Services told USA Today that policies and practices put in place within the agencies prevent them from sharing the photos because of the nature of Loughlin and Huffman’s charges, which are federal criminal charges, and because they have already been taken into custody and released on their own recognizance. They can’t release them solely to satisfy the curiosity of public spectators.

The U.S. Marshals Services states in its 2012 booking photograph disclosure policy that it only releases photos to the media if a “fugitive has not yet been captured.”

“Once a prisoner has been arrested, the general rule is that no release should be made because release of photographs of that prisoner to the media or public would not serve law enforcement purposes,” the policy reads.

There are special circumstances that would warrant the release of a booking photo — such as an alert to the country that a dangerous fugitive has been captured or to encourage witnesses to come forward. However, those stipulations don’t appear to apply to the two stars named in this case.

“Once a prisoner has been arrested, the general rule is that no release should be made because release of photographs of that prisoner to the media or public would not serve law enforcement purposes.”

— U.S. Marshals Services

A DOJ spokesman also confirmed to TheWrap the U.S. Marshals Services only releases booking photographs “under very specific circumstances that do not apply here.”

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“In the Central District of California, it would be very uncommon for the federal Marshals to distribute a mug shot to the public,” a criminal defense attorney told the publication.

As pointed out by USA Today, a 2016 ruling determined that the media would not be able to obtain mug shots of people arrested on federal criminal charges under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) unless they can make a legal argument that explains why it’s necessary.

“Booking photos convey guilt to the viewer,” said Judge Deborah Cook in her ruling at the time, according to Politico, adding the images are often “humiliating” and embarrassing. “Indeed, viewers so uniformly associate booking photos with guilt and criminality that we strongly disfavor showing such photos to criminal juries.”

Fox News’ Sasha Savitsky and Mariah Haas contributed to this report.

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