Lori Loughlin may be in denial again about prison and her possibly bleak future

This past week, Lori Loughlin was photographed wearing what Jezebel first dubbed her “crime hat,” a large, floppy beach hat that she apparently hoped would offer a disguise as she went out and about in Los Angeles, shopping or going to lunch with friends.

Of course, Loughlin’s version of a hat trick did not work, and the parapazzi got their shots. Still her choice of headwear might be the only sign from the former “Full House” star that she feels ashamed or worried right now that she and her husband Mossimo Giannulli are facing serious felony charges in the college admissions bribery scandal.

Loughlin and Giannulli reportedly are back to thinking that they were smart to take their case to trial, according to Us Weekly. “They believe they’ll be exonerated,” a source told Us Weekly, adding that the couple are “actively engaged in their defense.”

The Bel Air couple are accused of paying $500,000 in bribes to get their daughters, Olivia Jade and Isabella Giannulli, admitted to the University of Southern California.

But if the couple are currently envisioning exoneration, it would be a switch from several weeks ago when Loughlin reportedly was worried that she and her husband made “the wrong decision” in not taking a plea deal from federal prosecutors.

Or maybe another “source” was telling a different story to Entertainment Tonight. The Entertainment Tonight source said, “She still feels it’s a huge misunderstanding, but seeing (other defendants’ potential sentences) has scared her. She is watching the reduced sentences of those who have taken plea deals, and wondering each day if she’s made the wrong decision.”

Whatever Loughlin is currently thinking about her criminal case, she may take some comfort in the possibility that her relationship with Olivia Jade, 19, is improving.

Entertainment Tonight talked to several sources who said that the mother and daughter have started talking again — after Olivia Jade reportedly cut herself off from her parents after news of the scandal broke. Olivia Jade reportedly blamed her parents for ruining her future as a social media influencer by pushing her to go to college in the first place, and then allegedly bribing her to get in.

“Their family situation has improved,” a source told Entertainment Tonight. “Lori knows they will all grow and learn.”

“Things are better than they were,” a second source added to Entertainment Tonight. “Time is helping to heal.”

Entertainment Tonight also reported that Loughlin has been getting back to her day-to-day routine and believes that “the drama seems to have died down since the initial shock.”

However, one expert knowledgeable about the federal criminal justice system said Loughlin is still living “in a dream world” if she thinks she believes she has a chance of winning an acquittal at trial and of easily returning to her former celebrity life.

“Lori Loughlin doesn’t have a grasp on the reality about how these federal prosecutions work,” Larry Levine, founder of Wall Street Prison Consultants, said in an interview with this news organization earlier this month.

Levine is one of a small number of advisers hired by some defendants — usually well-heeled — to help them navigate the criminal justice system and prepare for life behind bars. Levine currently is working with three other parents charged in the college admissions scandal.

In addition to Loughlin, Giannulli and Levine’s three clients, 28 other parents were charged in “Operation Varsity Blues” in March. The parents, some of whom are from the Bay Area, allegedly paid tens or hundreds of thousands of dollars in bribes to college admissions consultant William “Rick” Singer to get their children admitted to prestigious colleges by having their children’s test scores boosted or by having them fraudulently designated as athletic recruits.

The Giannulli sisters — Olivia Jade, 19, and Isabella, 20 — were presented to USC admissions officials as crew team athletes, even though neither had ever participated in the sport.

Levine, who served 10 years in different federal prisons around the country after being convicted on racketeering, securities fraud and narcotics trafficking charges, said Loughlin “had a grand opportunity to take a plea deal.”

For example, actress Felicity Huffman agreed to plead guilty to paying $15,000 to get her daughter’s SAT scores boosted. As a result, prosecutors only want the former “Desperate Housewives” star to serve a relatively light sentence of four to 10 months in prison.

Loughlin and Giannulli reportedly refused to plead out, which prompted prosecutors to obtain a grand jury indictment that brought more serious fraud and money laundering charges, each of which carries potential maximum penalties of 20 years in prison.

Both Levine and former federal prosecutor Neama Rahmani have told this news organization that U.S. attorneys generally don’t file charges or seek grand jury indictments until they have their evidence nailed down and feel certain they can win at trial.

In “Operation Varsity Blues,” that means they have all the documents, signed checks, email transcripts, recorded phone calls and accomplices’ statements needed to prove that Loughlin, Giannulli and other defendants were engaged in fraudulent activities, including money laundering, he explained.

“They’ve got enough to convict you,” Levine said, explaining why he believes Loughlin “screwed” herself by believing she and her husband could convince a judge and jury that they were nothing more than devoted parents who wanted the best for their children.

In an interview in June, Rahmani also dismissed the proposed defense strategy of Loughlin, Giannlli and other parents who are taking their cases to trial. The strategy is that the parents did not know their payments were bribes. That strategy is “weak” and “completely contradicts the evidence in the case,” said Rahmani, who tried drug and fraud cases when he was in the U.S. Attorney’s Office in San Diego from 2010 to 2012.

For one thing, Rahmani said, if the parents were properly making donations to a university or to a university sports program, they would have worked with the schools directly, not made donations through a third party like Singer.

“When people are making contributions legitimately to a university, they don’t go through a shady nonprofit,” said Rahmani.

Loughlin, Giannulli and other parents are accused of directing some of their payments to a nonprofit that Singer operated. Loughlin and Giannulli also are accused of making $100,000 in payments to a USC official who allegedly presented Olivia Jade and Isabella Giannulli to admissions officials as crew team athletes. Rahmani has said that prosecutors have “an overwhelming amount of evidence against Loughlin.”