The brutal police beating of Tyre Nichols

January 28, 2023 • 8:45 am

This case has not yet been tried, so we can’t yet say that the five police officers indicted for second-degree murder of Tyre Nichols, 29, were guilty. But if you look at the video linked to the NYT article below, it sure looks as if they were whaling on him without any valid cause.  In the video (click screenshot below), Nichols was stopped for reckless driving, forced to the ground by the cops, and then cried that he didn’t do anything and just wanted to go home. That was enough to make the cops pepper-spray him in the face repeatedly.

Nichols manages to get up and start running toward home, at which point they taze him, which doesn’t seem to be improper procedure.

He’s chased, taken down again, and then gets hit and repeatedly pepper-sprayed as he calls “Mom!” (This is heartbreaking.) Then he’s beaten with a baton, punched and kicked—all without appearing to offer any resistance. Even when he’s forced to stand up by the cops, and probably unconscious, they still keep beating him. Nichols is then dragged to the car and the cops stand around, not doing anything to assist Nichols until an ambulance arrives.

Nichols died three days later in the hospital. The autopsy said he died from “extensive bleeding caused by a severe beating.” That’s no surprise given the video.

If you want to watch, and do so only if you can tolerate extreme brutality, I recommend the NYT video (be sure to turn the sound on), as it shows the entire event from Nichols being forced out of the car to being beaten and kicked until the ambulance arrives, but I’ve put the NBC News report on the event, which shows the apparent police brutality, at the bottom.

The video was released last night, and there have been demonstrations, but they were peaceful, as Nichols’s family requested.

To me it sure looks like manslaughter, and there is no obvious reason save police anger and desire for revenge that warrants such brutal treatment. Nichols put up no resistance except, before the beaten, when he broke free and tried to run home.  How a police officer can beat, kick, and pepper-spray someone who gave up and is calling for his mom is beyond belief—and it’s the police, not a personal altercation.

The indictment seems to be n the mark, and it’s a good thing there was a “skycam” nearby and the bodycams were turned on. Who knows what the cops might have made up had this not been the case? My heart goes out to Nichols’s family—especially his mom, for whom he called as he was beaten within an inch of his life. They had to watch their son’s slaughter before the video was release to the public yesteeray.

The NYT article below has more details, but you can read them for yourself. It’s unspeakably sad.

Here are details from the NYT if you can’t bear to watch:

Mr. Nichols was stopped on the evening of Jan. 7 in the southeastern corner of the city. Officers forced him out of his car and wrestled him to the ground, according to the videos. He dropped to the ground and laid on his side, imploring the officers to stop and saying, “I’m just trying to get home,” as they held down different parts of his body.

Though he appeared to show no resistance, the police threatened to hurt him further and continued to order him to get on the ground, apparently wanting him to roll onto his stomach. About two minutes into the encounter, an officer directed pepper spray at his face. At that point, Mr. Nichols got up from the ground and ran from the officers, one of whom fired a stun gun at him.

About eight minutes later, officers caught up with him again in a residential area near his family’s home. After tackling him, they beat him severely, as Mr. Nichols screamed in agony.

A body-worn camera and a surveillance camera captured police officers continuing their assault on Mr. Nichols, with one kicking him so hard in the face that the officer nearly fell down. Throughout the beating, which lasted about three minutes, Mr. Nichols did not appear to ever strike back. Several times, he moved his hands to cover his face, seeming to cower from the officers’ blows.

An independent autopsy commissioned by his family found that Mr. Nichols “suffered extensive bleeding caused by a severe beating,” according to preliminary findings released this week.

The video below (it’s here as well) shows the bit where Nichols is assaulted, and it’s narrated by the NBC broadcasters and analyzed after a few minutes of video. Click on the “Watch on YouTube” line.

Elizabeth Holmes planned to flee U.S. after her wire fraud conviction, say prosecutors

January 20, 2023 • 4:30 pm

I have to pat myself on the back, because I think I’m the only person who predicted (on this site) that Elizabeth Holmes, pampered fraudster who will now spend at least nine years in jail, would try to flee the U.S. so she wouldn’t serve time.

And now that seems to have been her plan. The news was just reported that Holmes had a serious plan to flee the country to Mexico. This from CNN:

Elizabeth Holmes made an “attempt to flee the country” by booking a one-way ticket to Mexico in January 2022, shortly after the Theranos founder was convicted of fraud, prosecutors alleged in a new court filing Friday.

Holmes was convicted last January of defrauding investors while running the failed blood testing startup Theranos. In November, she was sentenced to more than 11 years in prison. She has appealed her conviction. [JAC: She’ll serve at least nine.]

The claim that she tried to leave the country last year surfaced as part of a new filing from prosecutors arguing that Holmes should begin serving her prison sentence rather than living on an estate reported to have $13,000 in monthly expenses for upkeep while she awaits her appeal.

In the filing, prosecutors argue Holmes has not shown convincing evidence that she is not a flight risk, as her lawyers have stated, and used the alleged 2022 incident to support their |concerns that she could pose such a risk.

“The government became aware on January 23, 2022, that Defendant Holmes booked an international flight to Mexico departing on January 26, 2022, without a scheduled return trip,” the court filing states. “Only after the government raised this unauthorized flight with defense counsel was the trip canceled.”

The filing adds that prosecutorsanticipate Holmes will “reply that she did not in fact leave the country as scheduled” but said “it is difficult to know with certainty” what she would have done “had the government not intervened.” Now, in the wake of her sentencing, prosecutors say “the incentive to flee has never been higher” and Holmes “has the means to act on that incentive.”

Holmes is pregnant, and was supposed to report to prison on April 27. Somehow the government got wind of her attempt to flee and stopped it (I don’t know if they’d confiscated her passport.) But if ever there was a candidate for being a flight risk, it’s the entitled and delusional Holmes. In my view, she should be locked up immediately, pregnant or not. I don’t believe that she would ever want to serve nine years in prison if she could find any way out of it.

After botched lethal injections, Alabama plans to kill prisoners with nitrogen

January 3, 2023 • 11:30 am

I’ve written a couple of times about how lethal injection, which once seemed to be the most humane way to execute people, can go badly wrong (see here, and here, for instance). Alabama has had two such execution attempts that failed miserably because they couldn’t find a suitable vein, and punctured the condemned man like a pincushion. Eventually they just stopped the executions, and I believe that both have been canceled. (In one case, though, Alabama sought another execution date. That request was withdrawn.)

While it sounds good, lethal injection isn’t perfect, and to me the most humane way would be to inject the person with pentobarbital, which causes anesthesia and then death. It’s the stuff used to euthanize sick animals.  But no pharmaceutical company will supply the purified stuff for executions, and this is also a problem with the usual three-cocktail mixture used in human executions (sodium thiopental used as anesthesia; then pancuronium bromide to paralyze voluntary muscles; and finally potassium chloride to finish off the prisoner by causing cardiac arrest). These three chemicals are obtained on the gray market, often from independent “compounders”, and could, if impure, do a painful job of killing someone.

My recommended solution, of course, is to eliminate the death penalty completely, which all “first world” countries save Japan have done. It’s cheaper to keep an American prisoner in jail for life than to kill him (there are expensive appeals and so forth), execution hasn’t proven to be a deterrent, it’s usually barbaric and conducted in secrecy (which of course you wouldn’t want if you wanted to deter people), and it’s purely retributive. My own solution is that of Norway: a maximum sentence of 21 years no matter what the crime, and then a review every five years to see if the prisoner is “reformed” and safe to release. Really bad actors, like mass murderer Anders Breivik, will never see freedom under this system.  I see no reason to keep someone in jail until they die if they are, to all observers, reformed. Breivik and Charles Manson would never have passed that test.

But instead of abolishing lethal injection, the article shows that Alabama is considering using technical innovation to keep killing: in this case, suffocation with nitrogen.

The article first recounts the grisly botched executions of the state, and then describes what Alabama is proposing:

The state appears to be preparing to premiere a new kind of execution by lethal gas. In the gas chambers of old, little cells were filled with poison that eventually destroyed the organs of the trapped prisoners, resulting in death. Now Alabama proposes to use nitrogen gas to replace enough oxygen to kill via hypoxia, an untested method once imagined in a National Review article and made manifest in a plastic gas mask.

Since 1921, when gas was first used (in a botched execution in Nevada), 600 people have been executed with hydrogen cyanide gas in chambers like the one below, New Mexico’s gas chamber, used just once until it was replaced by lethal injection. Gas is now outlawed because it violates the Supreme Court’s dictum that “cruel and unusual punishments” be forbidden.

Cyanide wasn’t humane. Here’s a bit from Wikipedia:

At the September 2, 1983, execution of Jimmy Lee Gray in Mississippi, officials cleared the viewing room after 8 minutes while Gray was still alive and gasping for air. The decision to clear the room while he was still alive was criticized by his attorney. In 2007, David Bruck, an attorney specializing in death penalty cases, said, “Jimmy Lee Gray died banging his head against a steel pole in the gas chamber while reporters counted his moans.”

During the April 6, 1992, execution of Donald Eugene Harding in Arizona, it took 11 minutes for death to occur. The prison warden stated that he would quit if required to conduct another gas chamber execution.

. . . and from the Atlantic article:

Though the chamber had promised instantaneous and painless death, the ugliness and risk of its application eventually made it the country’s shortest-lived method of execution, Deborah Denno, a professor at Fordham University School of Law, told me. In plain view of witnesses, prisoners died screaming, convulsing, groaning, and coughing, their hands clawing at their restraints and their eyes bulging and their skin turning cyanic.

The last of them, Walter LaGrand, was killed in Arizona in 1999. Despite the length of time separating his death from Gee’s, he endured a similarly troubled execution: LaGrand, a German-born American who was convicted of murder, gagged and hacked and then died over the course of 18 minutes.

Now nitrogen may provide a more humane death, but it’s still death, and I oppose the procedure. But let’s hear about its history and how it’s supposed to be used:

Alabama has something slightly different in mind. Nitrogen hypoxia is the dream of Stuart Creque, a technology consultant and filmmaker who, in 1995, proposed the method in an article for National Review, in which he speculated optimistically about the ease and comfort of gas-induced death. After hearing about the potential of nitrogen hypoxia as a lethal agent in a BBC documentary, Oklahoma State Representative Mike Christian brought the idea before Oklahoma’s legislature in 2014 as an alternative to lethal injection. Oklahoma passed a law permitting the use of nitrogen hypoxia as a backup method of execution in the event that lethal injections could no longer be carried out. Mississippi passed similar legislation in 2017; Alabama followed in 2018. With Missouri, California, Wyoming, and Arizona (which have older lethal-gas statutes still on the books), these three nitrogen-curious newcomers make up the handful of governments that could begin attempting to execute people with lethal gas at any time. (Alabama Department of Corrections did not immediately reply to a request to comment for this article.)

The proposal is to use a large plastic mask that covers the condemned person’s face, is strapped to the head, and then nitrogen gas would be pumped into the mask via tubing. As I said, I don’t know how this would go, but presumably they’d do tests on animals before they used it on humans (another inhumane proposal). As The Atlantic points out, stored nitrogen is dangerous (though I’m not overly worried about that); what’s more of an impediment is that gas companies appear unwilling to supply nitrogen for execution.

Oklahoma Watch (there are two other states considering nitrogen execution) floats other possible problems, including when to put the mask on, how to assure it’s sealed, and how to prevent the condemned person from struggling. It all sounds good, but so did lethal injection:

Death from nitrogen comes not from what’s in the gas, but what isn’t. Nitrogen is air without oxygen, yet a person dying from it doesn’t feel as if they are suffocating. They still breathe in and expel carbon dioxide but may begin to feel lightheaded, fatigued and have impaired judgment.

Several breaths can render a person unconscious, with death following in four to five minutes, according to Copeland’s report. That’s based on experiences of people who have used nitrogen for suicides.

What could go wrong? We won’t know until it’s tried for real, and I doubt that any state wants to go first. (Read in the article about the first horrible attempt to use hydrogen cyanide.)

At this point, Alabama isn’t ready to use execution by nitrogen, and so it’s back to the three-drug cocktail that may look humane, but doesn’t always feel humane, nor does it always work well.

The obvious solution is to abolish executions. The Supreme Court hasn’t, but 18 states have. The new conservative court won’t, I think, take up this issue, but the rest of the 32 states could. It’s time to stop butchering people for butchering other people. In the future, state execution will be seen as immoral and barbaric, just as we see drawing and quartering now.

Alex Jones’s damages to Sandy Hook families he defamed: nearly a billion dollars

October 12, 2022 • 3:20 pm

The chickens have come home to roost in Alex Jones’s purse, and they’re going to pick it clean.  Just a few minutes ago, a jury in Connecticut ruled that the Infowars loon will have to pay the families of Sandy Hook victims (and an FBI agent) almost a billion dollars. Here’s the NYT story ripped from the headlines:

The upshot:

Alex Jones and Infowars’ parent company, Free Speech Systems, must pay close to $1 billion to the family members of eight victims of the shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary and an F.B.I. agent who responded to the scene of the 2012 massacre, which killed 20 first graders and six educators.

Mr. Jones had been found liable for defamation after he spent years falsely describing the shooting as a hoax and accusing the victims’ families of being actors complicit in the plot. As a result, the families were threatened in person and online. He used his Infowars platform to spread these lies.

  • The jury’s decision divided the money among 15 plaintiffs: 14 relatives of eight Sandy Hook victims, and William Aldenberg, an F.B.I. agent targeted by conspiracy theorists. The plaintiffs were awarded varying amounts by the jurors, who considered their testimony and other evidence presented in court to gauge the damage done to their reputations, invasion of their privacy and other factors.

  • Mr. Jones has a third Sandy Hook damages trial pending stemming from a defamation suit he lost to Lenny Pozner and Veronique De La Rosa, parents of Noah Pozner. An earlier trial, in the suit brought by Neil Heslin and Scarlett Lewis, parents of Jesse Lewis, ended with Mr. Jones being ordered to pay $4 million in compensatory damages and $45.2 million in punitive damages to the Mr. Heslin and Ms. Lewis.

  • This case presented the greatest financial risk to Mr. Jones, because he was found liable of violating Connecticut’s Unfair Trade Practices Act, by using lies about the shooting to sell products on Infowars. There is no cap on punitive damages under that law.

Alex Jones may be wealthy, but I don’t think he has a billion dollars, and the final damages are yet to come

Here’s the full verdict (eight minutes):

Yet the man is unrepentant.  Soon he will be selling pencils from a tin cup on a street corner:

When should the media mention the race of suspects or criminals?

September 12, 2022 • 10:45 am

This story is from a conservative website, but all I care about here is whether the data are accurate (I assume other places will vet them). After all, you’d never see an analysis like this in the liberal mainstream media, but the topic is of interest: the racialization of American politics and media. The data adduced tell us not so much about race, but rather about how the media manipulates the mention of race to push an ideological agenda. Click to read:

I noticed soon after the murder of George Floyd inflamed American racial tension that the media seemed to emphasize race in some instances and downplay it in others. My own experience involved reading about attacks on Jews in New York City, where the race of the apprehended was often omitted from the article (the accused were often black if you looked at other reports), but was mentioned when a white person attacked a person of color. But that was just my unsubstantiated impression, produced by my wondering who was going after the Jews.

Ideally, one wouldn’t need to mention the race of an offender in a news article, whether or not he (I’m assuming male suspects here) was convicted or only apprehended. What would be the point? For suspects at large, on the other hand, race is an identifying feature that could help apprehend criminals, and should be included in descriptions.

The media, however, often chooses to identify the race of “offenders” (apparently “suspects”, those not yet convicted). But as the Washington Free Beacon claims, data show that the race of black offenders is not only mentioned far less often than of white offenders, but when it is mentioned it appears much later in the news story.  That itself is evidence against structural anti-black racism in the news media, but it also shows something more: the media apparently use the mentions and placement to downplay crimes committed by blacks relative to those committed by whites. That is a choice that, the paper suggests, is made by the “MSM” (mainstream [liberal] media) to buttress a liberal antiracism by either minimizing black crime, maximizing white crime, or both (since we’re talking about differentials, we can’t tell for sure). The result is the same: differential treatment and, I think, more divisiveness.

Here’s the method used:

Washington Free Beacon review of hundreds of articles published by major papers over a span of two years finds that papers downplay the race of non-white offenders, mentioning their race much later in articles than they do for white offenders. These papers are also three to four times more likely to mention an offender’s race at all if he is white, a disparity that grew in the wake of George Floyd’s death in 2020 and the protests that followed.

The Free Beacon collected data on nearly 1,100 articles about homicides from six major papers, all written between 2019 and 2021. Those papers included the Chicago TribuneLos Angeles TimesNew York TimesPhiladelphia InquirerSan Francisco Chronicle, and Minneapolis’s Star-Tribune—representatives of each paper did not return requests for comment for this article. For each article, we collected the offender’s and victim’s name and race, and noted where in the article the offender’s race was mentioned, if at all.

They also controlled for high mentions of high-profile white offenders by eliminating them, but more on that later.

First, the data on when in a story the race of the offender is first mentioned:

Their analysis:

The chart above indicates that papers are far quicker to mention the race of white murderers than black. (Those two races account for 92 percent of mentions in the data, so others are not shown.) Half of articles about a white offender mention his race within the first 15 percent of the article. In articles about black offenders, by contrast, mentions come overwhelmingly toward the end of the piece. Half of the articles that mention a black offender’s race do not do so until at least 60 percent of the way through, and more than 20 percent save it until the last fifth of the article.

They present no statistics to show whether this difference is statistically significant, but a simple 2 X 10 chi-square, with numbers in each cell representing a decile, could show that. But given the chart above, the difference is surely statistically significant.

There follows an analysis of how often an offender’s race—again, only two are used: black and white—is mentioned in the article. Here’s a chart showing the results, but first the method:

To measure these choices, we identified the race of the offender in roughly 900 stories where his name, but not his race, was mentioned, first by looking at the race of people with the same name in Census data, and then hand-confirming race based on mug shots or other images published in local news stories.

The hand-confirmation is important given that people of different races can have the same name. The results?

And the conclusion, as well as a caveat about oft-mentioned white offenders:

Again, the skew is startling: White offenders’ race was mentioned in roughly 1 out of every 4 articles, compared with 1 in 17 articles about a black offender and 1 in 33 articles about a Hispanic offender.

This effect is driven in part by a handful of major news stories involving white perpetrators, though the attention paid to these stories is also an editorial choice. But even after omitting reports about white offenders Kyle Rittenhouse, Derek Chauvin, and the killers of Ahmaud Arbery, the race of white offenders is mentioned in 16 percent of cases, two to three times the rate at which the race of black offenders is mentioned. (Middle Eastern offenders were labeled as Asian in this analysis, but labeling them as white results in only a small change to the race mention rate.)

. . .This disparity widened following George Floyd’s murder. Before May of 2020, papers were roughly twice as likely to mention the race of a white (13 percent of stories) versus a black perpetrator (7 percent). After May of 2020, the numbers were 28 percent and 4 percent, a ratio of seven to one. Even omitting the above-mentioned stories, papers still mentioned race in 23 percent of stories about white killers post-Floyd, a six-to-one ratio.

It could be that there were more stories in which a white offender’s race was relevant after Floyd’s death than before. But it is also easy to see how the increased attention to white murderers represents a change in what reporters and editors thought it was, and was not, important for their readers to hear about, particularly after they publicly committed to revamping their crime reporting following Floyd’s death.

Again, I’m guessing the differential in all cases would be statistically significant because the samples are large and the differences substantial. But newspapers don’t do statistics.

It would be interesting to see if newspapers of different political stripes have different data here, but since many of them draw their stories from the same wire services, I wouldn’t expect to find much of a difference.

There are several explanations for this disparity, of course, but the obvious one to me is that newspapers are downplaying crimes by black and playing up crimes by whites as part of a social justice agenda. (For similar reasons, papers like the New York Times capitalize “Black” as a race but not “white.”) This conclusion is supported by other things highlighted in the article:

Newspapers across the country—including the Inquirer—stopped publishing mugshot galleries in part because, two Florida newspapers wrote, they “may have reinforced negative stereotypes.” Others committed to overhauling their language, substituting phrases like “formerly incarcerated person” for “felon” to respond to what the Poynter Institute described as an “inextricabl[e]” link between reporting on crime and “race and racism.” And the Associated Press amended its style guide to discourage the use of the word “riot,” which allegedly has racist connotations.

If you control for high profile murders by whites, as the article did, the only explanation that makes sense is an ideological one.  (One might think that the race of the offender is useful for sociological analyses of crime, but that’s of interest mainly to sociologists.) And there’s no acceptable reason for the disparity. Either give the race of the offender all the time when it’s known, or leave it out all of the time unless crimes are racially motivated and that needs to be known as a potential social trend. And if you do mention race, the placement in the article should be the same for all races. If you really do think the race of an offender is relevant, why should it appear in different places in an article based on the race itself.

If the conclusion be correct, then newspapers, in the name of perpetrating social justice, are not only selectively reporting the news, but are actually increasing racial divisions in America.  If there’s anywhere that equality should and actually can be mandated, it’s in the way crime is reported.


In today’s guest essay in the NYT (click screenshot),  Margaret Renkl takes on the “race of perpetrator and victim” issue with respect to the recent kidnapping and murder of Memphis schoolteacher Eliza Fletcher, who is white, by the accused murderer, Cleotha Abston, who is black.

Renkl’s view:

We need to work continually toward making our cities less dangerous and our criminal justice system more just. We need news coverage of everything — not just crime — to be completely accurate and completely fair, particularly on a subject as sensitive as race. God knows we need to find a way to make it safer for all women to move through the world at any time of day.

Any discussion of such subjects is bound to become heated, and that’s as it should be. Open public discourse is a privilege of living in a democracy. But while this kind of conversation is appropriate in a discussion of public policy, it is not at all appropriate in the discussion of an innocent person who lost her life to a seemingly random act of violence. Tragedies will always garner public interest. That’s just human nature. But tragedies should never be reduced to tweets and talking points or turned into a narrative to justify a political agenda.

h/t: Luana

Oberlin gives up fighting Gibson’s Bakery, starts coughing up dough

September 9, 2022 • 10:25 am

I’ve written about the fracas between Gibson’s Bakery and Ohio’s Oberlin College since the affair began in late 2016 when three black Oberlin students were caught for shoplifting wine from the Bakery. Despite the student’s admission of guilt and court conviction, Oberlin punished the bakery, calling it racist, refused to apologize, and cutting off commercial relationships with the bakery, which previously supplied Oberlin’s food services.  Gibson’s asked for an apology, Oberlin refused (always saying they were “upholding their values”), and finally Gibson’s sued. After a 6 year battle, they won—the Ohio Supreme Court recently refused to hear Oberlin’s appeal against the huge civil damages (see below).

But Oberlin apparently remained reluctant to dig into their pockets and pay off the settlement. Now, however, according to both the NY Times and Legal Insurrection (articles below; click on screenshots), the College is coughing up what it owes. This may in part be due to Lorna Gibson’s plaintive piece on Bari Weiss’s Substack site, “Will I ever see the $36 million Oberlin College Owes Me?“, which shamed the College. (Her husband David and in-law Allyn Gibson died during the trial.)

Here are the pieces saying that Oberlin has given up and will pay off. Click on the screenshots below to read them:

First, a brief summary of the case from the NYT in case you haven’t been following it:

The incident that started the dispute unfolded in November 2016, when a student tried to buy a bottle of wine with a fake ID while shoplifting two more bottles by hiding them under his coat, according to court papers.

Allyn Gibson, a son and grandson of the owners, who is white, chased the student out onto the street, where two of his friends, also Black students at Oberlin, joined in the scuffle. The students later pleaded guilty to various charges. [They got Gibson down on the ground and were kicking him and punching him when the cops arrived.]

That altercation led to two days of protests; several hundred students gathered in front of the bakery, accusing it of having racially profiled its customers, according to court papers.

The lawsuit filed by Gibson’s contended that Oberlin had defamed the bakery when the dean of students, Meredith Raimondo, and other members of the administration took sides in the dispute by attending the protests, where fliers, peppered with capital letters, urged a boycott of the bakery and said that it was a “RACIST establishment with a LONG ACCOUNT OF RACIAL PROFILING and DISCRIMINATION.”

Gibson’s also presented testimony that Oberlin had stopped ordering from the bakery but had offered to restore its business if charges were dropped against the three students or if the bakery gave students accused of shoplifting special treatment, which it refused to do.

But Gibson’s had no history of racism at all, and the accusations were without merit.

Here’s the legal outcome, including damages (total $36.6 million):

In the spring, a three-judge panel of the Ohio Court of Appeals confirmed the jury’s finding, after a six-week trial, that Oberlin was liable for libel, intentional infliction of emotional distress and intentional interference with a business relationship — that it had effectively defamed the business by siding with the protesters. The original jury award was even higher, at $44 million in punitive and compensatory damages, which was reduced by a judge. The latest amount consists of about $5 million in compensatory damages, nearly $20 million in punitive damages, $6.5 million in attorney’s fees and almost $5 million in interest.

In its ruling, the Court of Appeals agreed that students had a right to protest. But the court said that the flier and a related student senate resolution — which said that the store had a history of racial profiling — were not constitutionally protected opinion.

The Gibsons don’t even have to pay the attorney’s fees, and they do need the money. The Bakery’s business has tanked since the episode, and, as Lorna Gibson said:

If I got the money from the college, I wouldn’t buy a house, or go on vacation, or leave Ohio. I would replace the compressors for the refrigerators and replace the fryers and proofers that we use for our dough. I would pay off the mortgages on my properties that I’ve taken out in the past few years. I’d hire back employees and ramp up production. While the Ohio Supreme Court’s recent decision has made us hopeful, if the money doesn’t come through within the next couple months, I’ll be forced to declare bankruptcy and shut the doors of Gibson’s for good.

There’s no doubt that Oberlin’s own reputation has been damaged by its refusal to apologize, its vindictiveness against Gibson’s, and its unfounded cries of racism against Gibson’s. But Oberlin has a big endowment and can afford the hit. The NYT notes:

The college acknowledged that the size of the judgment, which includes damages and interest, was “significant.” But it said that “with careful financial planning,” including insurance, it could be paid “without impacting our academic and student experience.” Oberlin has a robust endowment of nearly $1 billion.

Still, there will be repercussions, with universities less likely to uncritically accept the rage of offended students:

“Such a large amount is certainly going to make institutions around the country take notice, and to be very careful about the difference between supporting students and being part of a cause,” said Neal Hutchens, a professor of higher education at the University of Kentucky. “It wasn’t so much the students speaking; it’s the institution accepting that statement uncritically. Sometimes you have to take a step back.”

Here’s the Legal Insurrection piece, which reproduces the College’s statement and its letter to its students and alums:

The College’s official statement from Scott Wargo, Oberlin’s Director of Communications:

Oberlin College initiates payment of awarded damages in Gibson’s Bakery case

Oberlin College and Conservatory has initiated payment in full of the $36.59 million judgment in the Gibson’s Bakery case and is awaiting payment information from the plaintiffs. This amount represents awarded damages and accumulated interest, and therefore no further payments are required.

On August 30, the Ohio Supreme Court issued its decision not to hear Oberlin’s appeal. Oberlin’s Board of Trustees has decided not to pursue the matter further.

We are disappointed by the Court’s decision. However, this does not diminish our respect for the law and the integrity of our legal system.

This matter has been painful for everyone. We hope that the end of the litigation will begin the healing of our entire community.

We value our relationship with the City of Oberlin, and we look forward to continuing our support of and partnership with local businesses as we work together to help our city thrive.

Oberlin’s core mission is to provide our students with a distinctive and outstanding undergraduate education. The size of this verdict is significant. However, our careful financial planning, which includes insurance coverage, means that we can satisfy our legal obligation without impacting our academic and student experience. It is our belief that the way forward is to continue to support and strengthen the quality of education for our students now and into the future.

As author Jacobson says, though, “Notice what is not in the statement: An apology. Oberlin College still appears not to understand or accept what it did wrong. It considers itself the victim.”  Indeed it does!

And that is perhaps the most reprehensible part of Oberlin’s behavior: they have never apologized to Gibson’s once, though what the College did was clearly wrong. The matter has been “painful for everyone” simply because Oberlin, by its intransigence, made it so.  We’ll see if they “partner” with Gibson’s bakery in the future!

Here’s an email to the whole college from Oberlin’s president, expressing no contrition for their actions—only assurance that the endowment will remain intact. What a callous place this “social justice” school is!

Dear Obies,

Today, Oberlin College and Conservatory initiated payment in full of the $36.59 million judgment in the Gibson’s Bakery case, an amount that represents the awarded damages and interest owed. Please see the college’s public statement below.

While this outcome is a disappointment, our financial plans for this possibility, which included insurance coverage, mean that this payment will not impact or diminish our academic or student life experience, or require us to draw down Oberlin’s endowment.

Like me, the majority of the campus was not here at the beginning of this matter in 2016. But it is also true that this case has been difficult for all of us who love this institution and its hometown. I am looking forward to all that is ahead, and remain focused on Oberlin’s core mission of providing a truly excellent liberal arts and musical education.

Carmen Twillie Ambar

I guess Oberlin can’t bear to say to its community “we were wrong.” That is an insensitive email, but of course the Woke never apologize. It’s not part of their playbook.

Now contrast that with this statement from Owen Rarric, one of the Gibsons’ lawyers:

We are happy to hear that full payment on the judgment is forthcoming, allowing the 137-year-old Gibson’s Bakery to move forward continuing to serve its community.  David Gibson was always hopeful that the family bakery’s relationship with Oberlin College could one day be restored. Though he was not able to see that day come to pass, his widow Lorna Gibson continues to say: “Oberlin College faculty, staff, and students have always been, and will always be, welcome in our store.” To that end, Lorna is willing to meet with President Ambar and her senior staff to discuss resumption of a long-term relationship whenever the College feels appropriate.

They’re still seeking reconciliation, and I sure hope that they’ll get an apology from the President. But I’m not holding my breath.

Here are David Gibson and Allyn W. Gibson at trial. Both died before their final victory in court.

[Photo credit Bob Perkoski for Legal Insurrection Foundation]
h/t: cesar and several other readers

Sunny Balwani convicted in Theranos scandal

July 8, 2022 • 12:45 pm

I added this report to the Nooz this morning, but wanted to say a few words about the grand finale of L’Affaire Theranos. It’s unusual for techies and white-collar entrepreneurs like these two to be charged, must less convicted, and I’ve been fascinated by the trial after reading the book mentioned below.

The facts are detailed in a Wikipedia article “Theranos“, but if you want an investigative reporter’s account of what went on, read the fabulous book Bad Blood: Secrets and Lies in a Silicon Valley Startup (2018) by John Carreyrou, whose reporting for the Wall Street Journal blew the Theranos fraud wide open. It’s a page-turner, and you’ll be amazed how Elizabeth Holmes (and Ramesh “Sunny” Balwani) conned millions of dollars out of gullible donors by convincing them they had a machine that could analyze dozens of conditions from just a capillary tube of blood. People gave millions without asking for evidence, and they lost it all.

Holmes, of course, was indicted and convicted of four of the eleven charges against her, including three counts of wire fraud and one count of conspiracy to commit wire fraud (on the other charges she was either found not guilty or there was no verdict). She’s been free on half a million dollars bail since her January conviction, and will be sentenced in September. She faces 20 years in prison and a $250,000 fine for each count, though she’ll undoubtedly get a much lighter sentence than that.  She testified on her own behalf during the trial, and part of her defense involved the claim that she was psychologically abused by Balwani. I don’t think that claim helped her much.

Balwani, her partner in fraud—and for a time in romance—was convicted yesterday on all 12 counts of fraud (10 counts of wire fraud and two counts of conspiracy to commit wire fraud) and faces the same sentences per charge as did Holmes. The sentences for each perp will probably run concurrently, and they’ll probably get pretty much the same sentence. Balwani will be sentenced this coming November; in the meantime he’s free on a $750,000 bond. Balwani didn’t testify in his trial, and only two witnesses testified in his defense.

Since Carreyrou began reporting the scandal in the Wall Street Journal, that paper has had the best coverage of the trials, though he’s no longer with the paper. Here’s yesterday’s report of the Balwani verdict (click to read):

A few bits that were new to me:

Mr. Balwani’s lawyers argued he wasn’t in charge at Theranos, and the responsibility for the company rested with Ms. Holmes. He used investor money as promised, to build the company, they said, and invested his own money to help the startup succeed. Mr. Balwani’s verdict shows how the government, in its second time prosecuting the case against the Theranos executives, appeared to have buttoned up its arguments following Ms. Holmes’s trial, which had a more mixed result.

Most notably, the jury in Mr. Balwani’s case found him guilty on all counts related to defrauding patients—counts for which Ms. Holmes wasn’t convicted, an outcome that disappointed patients affected by Theranos’s faulty technology. A jury of seven women and five men deliberated for about 32 hours before reaching the verdict.

. . .Mr. Balwani’s conviction may affect the sentencing given to Ms. Holmes. The judge likely will want to give similar sentences to both because of their near-identical crimes, said Andrey Spektor, a defense attorney and former federal prosecutor in the Eastern District of New York. Any leniency he shows Ms. Holmes—who is 38 years old and had a baby last year—he will have to also show Mr. Balwani, or risk looking unfair, Mr. Spektor said.

“If he gives her a big break he is going to think, how will it look if he sentences Balwani differently,” said Mr. Spektor.

Balwani even incriminated himself:

Crucially, he was responsible for the lab when in 2015 a federal regulatory inspection uncovered serious deficiencies that would eventually lead to Theranos closing its blood-testing facilities. Adam Rosendorff, another former lab director, testified that Mr. Balwani controlled which employees had access to the lab, managed the laboratory resources, and hired and fired lab employees. He was more involved in the operations of the lab than Ms. Holmes, Dr. Rosendorff said.

Prosecutors showed a text message Mr. Balwani sent Ms. Holmes in July 2015: “I am responsible for everything at Theranos. All have been my decisions too.”

The article details the nature of the fraud, involving both deceived investors and patients, and you can get the details in the WSJ or on Wikipedia. Here’s how much the pair were worth at their peak (now they have a net worth of zero):

At its peak, Theranos was valued at more than $9 billion, 10th-largest at the time among venture-capital-backed startups. Mr. Balwani’s stake was worth $500 million for a time, and Ms. Holmes’s was worth $4.5 billion. They never sold their shares.

Their on-paper wealth was propelled by claims that their technology could cheaply and quickly run more than 200 health tests using a proprietary device that required just a finger prick of blood. In a partnership, Theranos offered the tests to patients at Walgreens pharmacies.

The trials have shown a different reality. The company managed to use its proprietary finger-prick blood-testing device for just 12 types of patient tests. Those results were unreliable. At its lab, Theranos secretly ran another 27 blood tests on commercial devices from other companies that it altered to work with tiny blood samples.

In the end, I don’t think that Holmes and Balwani, just because they’re white-collar criminals and tech entrepreneurs, should get a light sentence. Not only did they in effect steal millions of dollars, knowingly bilking people out of immense sums of money, but a reasonably long sentence may deter others contemplating similar frauds. (My fellow determinist Gregg Caruso, though, thinks that “deterrence” should not be a motive in criminal justice” because it uses people as a means rather than an end.)

Now, dear readers, what do you think are appropriate sentences for Holmes and Balwani?


Holmes in 2014:


Read this book (click image to go to Amazon link):

How useful are guns in civilian hands for defending against “active shooters”? Not very much.

June 23, 2022 • 9:15 am

The common defense of gun ownership by private individuals is that “what stops armed bad guys is armed good guys”. (This is a quote from Ted Cruz). Such is the defense for much private gun ownership, and also now for the ridiculous movement to arm teachers to deter or kill school shooters. Of course if you include police and security guards as “armed good guys,” the mantra has more credibility, but the mantra is often used to justify gun ownership by private citizens.

A new article in the New York Times (click on headline below) tests whether the Cruz Mantra is a verity, at least as far as “active shootings” are concerned.

It turns out that the answer is that the “conventional wisdom” is wrong for active shooters. It’s also wrong for home invasions in general, as private gun ownership involves accidental deaths, or suicides, far more often than it stops (by shooting) individual altercations between innocent citizens and “bad guys”. But today we’re talking about “active shooters”.

What is an active shooter? The paper, drawing from data collected by the Advanced Law Enforcement Rapid Response Training Center at Texas State, collaborating with the FBI, defines active shooter attacks this way:

[Active shooter attacks are those] in which one or more shooters killed or attempted to kill multiple unrelated people in a populated place.

And they’re increasing—currently up to more than one a week. Here’s a figure from the NYT (all figures from the article) showing the number of active shooter attacks per year from 2011 to 2021. (According to the Washington Post, we’ve had 250 already in 2022; although their figures are for “mass shootings”, these seem the same as “active shootings”).

According to the data, there have been 433 active shooter attacks in the US from 2000-2021. What the figure below shows is how they ended, divided into two main groups: attacks that ended before police arrived (249) and those that ended after police arrived (184).Each of the two main divisions is further subdivided.

Click to enlarge:


Here are the lessons (bold headings and indented stuff are taken from the paper):

a.) Police officers shoot or physically subdue the shooter in less than a third of attacks. ”

Most events end before the police arrive, but police officers are usually the ones to end an attack if they get to the scene while it is ongoing.

Hunter Martaindale, director of research at the ALERRT Center, said the group has used the data to train law enforcement that “When you show up and this is going on, you are going to be the one to solve this problem.”

The average response time for police to get to the scene is very fast: three minutes. But this doesn’t mean that the cops themselves nearly always end the attack. Very often the shootings end when the attacker simply leaves the scene (not because he’s being shot at, kills himself, surrenders, or is subdued without guns.  These add up to 65% of total active shootings.

b.) The rate of suicide is extraordinarily high in these events. 110 of the 433 events ended with the attacker killing himself (there are a few women who carry out these attacks, but nearly all are by men). This is most likely either via “suicide by cop” or the result of a realization by the attacker that he’s going to be either caught or shot.

c.) When attacks are stopped by bystanders rather than security guards, cops, or off-duty cops, they are ended more often by physical force than by shootings.  Of 54 cases of attacks stopped by citizen bystanders, 42 of them—78%—were stopped by subduing rather than shooting the perp. Further, when attacks are stopped by shooting before police arrived, about half of them (10/22, or 45%) are stopped by security guards or off-duty cops than by citizens.

d.) When attacks are ended by the shooting of the attacker, the vast majority of time it’s by a police officer, on or off duty, or a security guard.  The number of attacks shopped by shooting the perp were 120. Of these, 12, or 10%, were stopped by citizen shooters. But 12 is only 2.7% of all active shootings that were ended.

Conclusion (from me): When mass shootings are stopped, only a very small percentage are stopped via shooting by armed citizens who are not cops or security guards. And attacks stopped by private citizens were most likely to be stopped by subduing him than by shooting him (42/54, or 78%; this drops to 66% if you include “bystander” cops or security guards.

But taking all the ways that active shootings could end, including the shooter leaving the scene (most are captured later), suicide, or subduing the shooter, only 2.8% of them are stopped by private citizens shooting perps (12/433). Ergo, Ted Cruz is wrong: in these mass shootings, at least, it’s not the “armed good guys” (implying private citizens) but other forces, tactics, and people (including cops) who stop the shootings. 

I have no objection to cops or security guards carrying guns; I do have objections to private citizens carrying or owning guns. In most cases these lead to the death of innocent people more often than to the extirpation of “bad guys.”

I’ll end with a couple of quotes from the article:

“It’s direct, indisputable, empirical evidence that this kind of common claim that ‘the only thing that stops a bad guy with the gun is a good guy with the gun’ is wrong,” said Adam Lankford, a professor at the University of Alabama, who has studied mass shootings for more than a decade. “It’s demonstrably false, because often they are stopping themselves.”

. . . But armed bystanders shooting attackers was not common in the data — 22 cases out of 433. In 10 of those, the “good guy” was a security guard or an off-duty police officer.

“The actual data show that some of these kind of heroic, Hollywood moments of armed citizens taking out active shooters are just extraordinarily rare,” Mr. Lankford said.

In fact, having more than one armed person at the scene who is not a member of law enforcement can create confusion and carry dire risks. An armed bystander who shot and killed an attacker in 2021 in Arvada, Colo., was himself shot and killed by the police, who mistook him for the gunman.

Now remember that this post (and the article) is about “active shooters,” which seem roughly equivalent to “mass shooters”. We’re not talking about home invasions or private confrontations between people. And at least in this case, almost no benefit is derived from arming citizens. When you compare that to the down side of arming citizens, the Ted Cruz defense falls to pieces.

U of C students continue calls to abolish the campus police after three murders of students and a new incident when a man fired at a cop

February 11, 2022 • 12:45 pm

I swear, there is no sight more ridiculous than a group of college students demanding to abolish a campus police department right after cop shoots a guy in self defense after the perp started shooting at the cop!   And this is a particularly sad but egregious case, because the perp was walking down the street waving a handgun, shooting it in the air . And then he started firing at a campus cop when the cop pulled up and demanded that the guy drop to the ground. It turns out the perp was mentally ill and off his meds, and was out on a declared mission to commit “suicide by cop.” He wanted that violence. And yet the students blame the cops!

And all of this is happening in an academic year when three of our own students were killed off campus by robbers or after being hit in other gunfights  It’s been the worst year for off-campus violence in the 36 years I’ve been here. Yet student calls to abolish the campus cops (note: not defund them—ABOLISH them) get more persistent. 

I happened upon the most recent incident about an hour after the shooting described below took place. I was going to get fruit and veg, but four or five blocks around the small shopping center had been rendered off-limits with yellow tape, and cops were everywhere. When I asked one what had happened, he wouldn’t tell me (this laconic response, which is probably the legal response, is common). But the story was on the news that night, and an account appeared in our increasingly woke student newspaper, The Chicago Maroon (I will make no puns here). Here’s the account (click on screenshot):


The details:

A man was wounded in a shootout with the University of Chicago Police Department (UCPD) late Tuesday morning near the intersection of East 53rd Street and South Woodlawn Avenue.

A UCPD officer encountered the man carrying a handgun near 53rd and Woodlawn at 11:43 a.m. on Tuesday, according to an email sent to the University community by Eric Heath, the University’s associate vice president for safety and security.

According to University reports, the officer stopped his vehicle to investigate, after which the man fired shots and the officer ordered him to get on the ground. The individual then came in the direction of the officer, who fired his weapon and struck the individual twice in the thigh, Heath wrote in the email. Chicago Police Department (CPD) units were called to the scene soon after, according to police scanner reports.

According to a follow-up email sent by Heath on Wednesday, UCPD supplied the individual with medical aid before taking him into custody and bringing him to the University of Chicago Medical Center. The man is currently in critical condition, according to Heath’s second email.

Heath’s email stated that no one else was injured in the incident.

CPD and the University are both conducting investigations into the event. “Preliminary evidence indicates that the suspect began firing shots before he reached the intersection, and also fired at the officer,” a University spokesperson told The Maroon.

You can see some video here (note that the bodycam video starts 30 seconds in as there is a time delay):

On Wednesday, UCPD released videos of the shooting taken from the officer’s body camera and two security cameras at Kimbark Plaza. The body camera footage indicates that the officer fired three shots before the individual can be seen advancing, then two shots that struck the man. The officer then moved behind a parked vehicle and fired another four shots. At the end of the video, the man is seen on the ground.

The perp is identified as Rysheen Wilson.

And a walk-through of the videos by the Hyde Park Herald is here.  If you watch them, the beginning of the altercation is a bit unclear because the bodycam hadn’t started, but other evidence recently presented by the State’s Attorney shows that the suspect fired at the officer first, and only then did the officer take refuge behind a wall, order the suspect to get to the ground, and then shoot him when the man continued firing at the cop. The man was, as noted above, given medical aid and taken to the U of C hospital. He’s no longer in critical condition, and has been charged, among other things, with attempted murder of a police officer. (If Wilson is convicted, that will pretty much bring him a life sentence

The Chicago Sun-Times article (below) notes that the perp himself, before he went traipsing down the street waving his gun, called 911 and told the City of Chicago Police that he had a gun and wanted to commit “suicide by cop” (i.e., provoke the cops to shoot him). It’s pretty clear that the guy has some serious mental issues—watch some of the video when he’s dancing around waving the pistol:

The article shows that Wilson did suffer from serious mental problems. This is a tragedy, because perhaps if he’d stayed on his meds he might not have provoked this incident. But we can’t hold Wilson innocent, nor especially hold the cops culpable, when a mentally ill person begins shooting at police and the cops shoot back:

Wilson, 27, was “having mental issues” when he called his cousin Tuesday morning and told him where he was, Assistant State’s Attorney James Murphy said in court. The cousin found him crying and talking about killing himself, Murphy said.

Wilson — who suffers from schizophrenia, PTSD and mood swings — was off his medication, Murphy said.

Wilson ran away from his cousin, pulled out a gun and called 911, Murphy said, telling the dispatcher his name, giving a description of what he was wearing and where he was.

The University of Chicago cop didn’t know about the 911 call, and the incident occurred when the patrolling officer drove by the man waving his gun. Nor, of course, did the officer know that Wilson was mentally ill—not that it would (or should) have made a difference in the cop’s behavior.

[Officer Nicholas] Twardak was driving down the street and saw Wilson pointing a gun at him and slowed down, Murphy said. As the officer stepped out his squad car, Wilson allegedly opened fire at Twardak.

The officer ran for cover toward parked cars on the other side of the street, and then moved to the front porch of a brick home as Wilson continued firing, Murphy said. Using the brick stoop as cover, the officer fired at Wilson, then repeatedly ordered Wilson to get on the ground, Murphy said.

Wilson moved toward the officer’s squad car in the middle of the street, and the officer fired at Wilson again and struck him, Murphy said. Wilson suffered two gunshot wounds to the thigh, two to the lower leg and one to the groin.

As Twardak approached, Wilson said he “wanted to bleed out,” Murphy said.

Three witnesses saw the shooting unfold, including a person in a car in Wilson’s line of fire. She reversed the car and then noticed bullet holes in her windshield and hood, Murphy said.

The sad irony of this is that officer Twardak was also involved in a 2018 incident when he shot (but didn’t kill) a mentally ill student who was having a breakdown and, after breaking windows and bashing up cars, charged the cop with a metal stake. Again ordered to drop the stake, the student continued to rush the cop and the cop defended himself shooting the student in the shoulder. I feel bad for everybody here, but one should also have sympathy for the cop instead of characterizing him as a serial shooter, as some students have done.  As far as I can see in both cases, the cop had no choice but to defend himself.

Those facts nonwithstanding, the organization #CareNotCops has increased the volume of its cry to “defund the U of C police”.  Their object, as you can see from the hashtag, is to argue that proper therapy and mental-illness treatment is a good substitute for police.  But not in this case, and not in the three cases of our murdered students this year—all killed by people outside the University community. Of course it’s possible that, at least in the 2018 case, therapy might have prevented the nonfatal shooting. But the victim, Charles Thomas, did not seek therapy, and went on to commit other crimes. He’s left the University but has completed a program that keeps him out of jail. Thomas’s lawsuit that he was shot in violation of regulations was dismissed.

And so a band of badly misguided students are blaming the police, and seeking their disbanding, in response to an increase in violence against students that could not possibly be stopped by “care”. What kind of crazy world do these students live in?

Here’s a Maroon article on the latest campus rally to protest the shooting of the guy who wanted to commit “suicide by cop” (click on screenshot):

Check out this logic:

#CareNotCops (CNC), a student group dedicated to the abolition of the University of Chicago Police Department (UCPD) in favor of investing in South Side communities and mental health services, gathered on the main quad in front of Levi Hall at 12:30 p.m. on Friday, February 4, to protest the recent shooting of community member Rhysheen Wilson by a UCPD officer.

Fourth-year CNC organizer Alicia Hurtado began the rally by giving a speech calling for the abolition of UCPD. They asserted that far too many UCPD encounters with community members result in “escalation, violence, and criminalization.”

Hurtado spoke out against the increased patrols and surveillance that the University instituted in response to 24-year-old recent UChicago graduate Shaoxiong “Dennis” Zheng being shot and killed during an attempted robbery at 956 East 54th Place on November 9.

“When the University announced their expansion of their private armed police force, I knew that it only had one predictable outcome,” Hurtado said. “That outcome was not safety or an answer to gun violence.”

The students want safety (see the Maroon article below) but when a student gets killed during a robbery, they get angry at the subsequent increase in policing. What on earth do they want? Patrolling therapists? (Click on screenshot):

Next, Hopie Melton, a third-year CNC member, read a statement on behalf of Students for Disability Justice (SDJ), an advocacy organization that promotes disability activism and discussion within the University community and Chicagoland. The organization said that UCPD and emergency dispatchers are not properly trained to handle mental health crises and unnecessarily escalate many confrontations as a result. SDJ also demanded that the University further invest in mental health services.

“[UCPD] responds to every situation with the same heavy-handed, violent approach, leaving behind the people that need our help the most,” Melton said, reading the statement. “Our Black neighbors are under constant surveillance. Our mad and neurodivergent neighbors are judged and have been pathologized for their differences. Our disabled neighbors are under constant threat, and UChicago acts as a further disabling force.”

This is, as John McWhorter notes, the voice of religion.

No, the two mentally ill people WERE ATTACKING THE CAMPUS POLICE OFFICERS, one with a metal stake and the other with a gun. How would proper mental health training of cops have changed that situation?

Now of course with mental health problems among young people rising rapidly, it behooves any school to ensure that proper therapy is in place. College is a stressful time. But it also behooves the students to develop some sense about how the world works. When a guy is trying to kill you with a gun, you don’t yell at him, “Go home and take your meds!”

Elizabeth Holmes found guilty on four counts

January 3, 2022 • 7:00 pm

Well, it looks like con artist Elizabeth Holmes, founder of Theranos and its nonfunctional blood-testing system, is going to jail. That is, unless the judge lets her off on probation when each of the four counts of which she’s convicted carries a maximum twenty-year sentence.

As the New York Times reports, Holmes was found guilty of three counts of wire fraud and one count of conspiracy to commit wire fraud. As for the other seven charges, here’s the outcome (from the NYT); “no verdict” means that the jury was deadlocked.

  • Count one of conspiring to commit wire fraud against investors in Theranos between 2010 and 2015: Guilty.

  • Count two of conspiring to commit wire fraud against patients who paid for Theranos’s blood testing services between 2013 and 2016: Not guilty.

  • Count three of wire fraud in connection with a wire transfer of $99,990 on or about Dec. 30, 2013: No verdict.

  • Count four of wire fraud in connection with a wire transfer of $5,349,900 on or about Dec. 31, 2013: No verdict.

  • Count five of wire fraud in connection with a wire transfer of $4,875,000 on or about Dec. 31, 2013: No verdict.

  • Count six of wire fraud in connection with a wire transfer of $38,336,632 on or about Feb. 6, 2014: Guilty.

  • Count seven of wire fraud in connection with a wire transfer of $99,999,984 on or about Oct. 31, 2014:Guilty.

  • Count eight of wire fraud in connection with a wire transfer of $5,999,997 on or about Oct. 31, 2014: Guilty.

  • Count nine was dropped.

  • Count 10 of wire fraud in connection with a patient’s laboratory blood test results on or about May 11, 2015: Not guilty.

  • Count 11 of wire fraud in connection with a patient’s laboratory blood test results on or about May 16, 2015: Not guilty.

  • Count 12 of wire fraud in connection with a wire transfer of $1,126,661 on or about Aug. 3, 2015: Not guilty.

From the NYT:

A jury of eight men and four women took 50 hours to reach a verdict, convicting her of three counts of wire fraud and one count of conspiracy to commit wire fraud. She was found not guilty on four other counts. The jury was unable to reach a verdict on three counts, which were set aside for later.

Each count carries a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison, terms that are likely to be served concurrently. Ms. Holmes is expected to appeal.

The verdict stands out for its rarity. Few technology executives are charged with fraud and even fewer are convicted. If sentenced to prison, Ms. Holmes would be the most notable female executive to serve time since Martha Stewart did in 2004 after lying to investigators about a stock sale. And Theranos, which dissolved in 2018, is likely to stand as a warning to other Silicon Valley start-ups that stretch the truth to score funding and business deals.

The mixed verdict suggested that jurors believed the evidence presented by prosecutors that showed Ms. Holmes lied to investors about Theranos’s technology in the pursuit of money and fame. They were not swayed by her defense of blaming others for Theranos’s problems and accusing her co-conspirator, Ramesh Balwani, the company’s chief operating officer and her former boyfriend, of abusing her.

They were also not swayed by the prosecutor’s case that she had defrauded patients. Ms. Holmes was acquitted on four counts related to patients who took Theranos’s blood tests and one related to advertisements that the patients saw.

Holmes’s defense of blaming her actions on mind control by Sunny Balwani particularly galled me, as she constructed her image, and certainly behaved accordingly, as a strong and independent woman.

My prediction was that she’d be convicted (you’ll see an earlier writing, before the verdict was just issued, in tomorrow’s “Hili News), though I thought she’d be convicted on more charges.  Still, in my own view, she needs some jail time to serve as a deterrent to others entrepreneurs who would extract money from people under false pretenses.

To see what she really did, I highly recommend John Carreyrou’s dissection of the whole saga in his 2018 book, Bad Blood: Secrets and Lies in a Silicon Valley Startup. Begun as a reportorial job for the Wall Street Journal, the saga was turned by Carreyrou into a page turner that is endlessly engrossing and won several prizes as well. If you’ll read it, you’ll wonder how Holmes got off so lightly.