It’s almost like a three-ring circus, a series of headline-grabbing trials that have grabbed public attention.
One involves sexual abuse. Another centers on alleged medical fraud, and also sex. And a third focuses on what’s alleged to be a racially charged hoax.
Of course, none of the three are generating the kind of saturation coverage reserved for the trial of Kyle Rittenhouse, because his case had cameras in the courtroom. And nothing drives public interest — and television segments — like being able to see a defendant breaking down or subjected to fierce cross-examination.
Elizabeth Holmes, the onetime media darling who founded the now-collapsed Theranos, became teary-eyed on the stand Monday, but we didn’t get to see it. Holmes, who fooled much of the tech press with claims of a new and simple blood test until she was exposed by the Wall Street Journal, is now blaming the debacle in part on her boyfriend.
Sunny Balwani, who was also a top Theranos executive, wanted to “kill the person” she was:
“He impacted everything about who I was. And I don’t fully understand that.”
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Her boyfriend, who was about 20 years older, told her that eating only certain foods would make her “pure,” that she shouldn’t sleep much and maintain a “very disciplined and intense lifestyle,” according to a Washington Post account.
“When she failed to live up to his expectations, Holmes said, Balwani would yell at her and sometimes force her to have sex with him when she didn’t want to.”
Sorry, but didn’t she have free will? Holmes was the founder and CEO. Whether he influenced her or not, isn’t she responsible for claiming non-existent medical breakthroughs and misleading investors?
The much-anticipated trial of Ghislaine Maxwell involves the lurid and disgusting spectacle of Jeffrey Epstein, who sexually abused young girls, and charges that Maxwell, his partner and onetime girlfriend, recruited them. With Epstein, who once hobnobbed with such people as Bill Clinton, Donald Trump and Prince Andrew, having killed himself in prison, Maxwell is the only remaining target for justice to be done.
They were “partners in crime,” a federal prosecutor said, and Maxwell got the girls to trust her and then “served them up.”
But Maxwell’s lawyer told the jury that her client is being used as a “scapegoat”: “Ever since Eve was tempting Adam with the apple, women have been blamed for the bad behavior of men.”
It will be up to a jury to determine whether Maxwell’s conduct rises to the level of a criminal offense. But there is plenty of evidence she was Epstein’s enabler.
Finally, Jussie Smollett is on trial? The disorderly conduct charges seem like overkill, three years after the onetime “Empire” star was involved in a hoax that riveted the nation’s attention.
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But here’s the thing: He still refuses to admit it was a hoax. As a result, Smollett faces up to three years in prison.
There is ample evidence that Smollett orchestrated the post-midnight attack by assailants shouting MAGA slogans that he portrayed as evidence of racial hostility. He knew the two brothers who supposedly attacked him on the street, as they had worked on his show. What’s more, there is surveillance video of Smollett driving around Chicago with the brothers the day before.
“They agreed they should bruise him a little bit to make it look good,” the special prosecutor said. What’s more, police say the brothers were paid $3,500 to stage the attack.
But Smollett’s lawyer argued — wait for it — that the crime was committed against his client: “Jussie Smollett is a real victim. The brothers did not like him.”
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It’s unreal how many hours of investigation have been consumed by this overhyped episode that the media initially bought into and trumpeted. Now it will be settled in a courtroom.
I’ve covered many trials in my career. Most are marked by long stretches of boring testimony and droning expert witnesses, sometimes punctuated by a few moments of drama. Without television cameras, they tend to be relegated to the inside pages.
But the verdicts will be big news, if only because each case is notorious in its own way.