Closing Statements Begin in Trial of Sunny Balwani

For months, Ramesh Balwani’s legal professionals have tried to tell apart him from Elizabeth Holmes, his former girlfriend and enterprise accomplice on the failed blood-testing firm Theranos.

Ms. Holmes was discovered responsible of defrauding the start-up’s buyers in January. Mr. Balwani is in search of a distinct consequence in his personal fraud trial.

However on Tuesday, in closing arguments to Mr. Balwani’s jury, prosecutors tied him on to Ms. Holmes and the yearslong fraud at Theranos. Jeffrey Schenk, an assistant U.S. legal professional and a lead prosecutor within the case, displayed a textual content message that Mr. Balwani had despatched Ms. Holmes in 2015 and that had been used as proof within the trial.

“I’m chargeable for every thing at Theranos,” Mr. Balwani wrote. “All have been my selections too.”

The textual content was an act of contrition, Mr. Schenk mentioned, including, “He’s acknowledging his position within the fraud.”

The presentation capped greater than three months of testimony in Mr. Balwani’s trial, which largely mirrored Ms. Holmes’s final fall. She and Mr. Balwani, 57, had been charged in 2018 with exaggerating the talents of Theranos’s blood-testing machines and enterprise efficiency when, in reality, the merchandise didn’t work and its enterprise was struggling. The pair pleaded not responsible. Ms. Holmes was convicted on 4 of 11 expenses.

The trial for Mr. Balwani, who is called Sunny, lacked the fanfare of Ms. Holmes’s case. It nonetheless serves as a coda to a waning period of start-up progress that usually relied on hype and hyperbole. Ms. Holmes and Mr. Balwani are among the many few tech executives who’ve ever been prosecuted on fraud expenses.

Simply as Ms. Holmes tried blaming the deceptions at Theranos on others, Mr. Balwani has pointed the finger again at her. All through the trial, his legal professionals argued that a lot of Theranos’s blood exams had labored. They mentioned Ms. Holmes, not Mr. Balwani, had managed Theranos. And on Tuesday, they painted Mr. Balwani as a real believer within the imaginative and prescient and expertise of Theranos.

Mr. Balwani “put his coronary heart and soul into Theranos,” mentioned Jeffrey Coopersmith, who represents him. “He labored tirelessly, yr after yr, to make the corporate successful.”

Ms. Holmes, now 38, met Mr. Balwani when she was 18. They started relationship years later, after Ms. Holmes had based Theranos. Mr. Balwani joined Theranos in 2009, grew to become its chief working officer, and ultimately invested $4.6 million within the firm and took cost of its lab. The pair saved their relationship a secret and lived collectively in an expansive residence they co-owned in Atherton, Calif.

In 2016, after Theranos got here below hearth for mendacity about its blood testing talents, Mr. Balwani left the corporate and cut up with Ms. Holmes. The pair had been charged with fraud collectively, however Ms. Holmes argued in filings to sever the circumstances and accused Mr. Balwani of emotional and sexual abuse. Her trial included dramatic testimony recounting the accusations. That topic was excluded from Mr. Balwani’s trial.

To convict Mr. Balwani, prosecutors should persuade the jurors that he deliberately lied to buyers and sufferers about Theranos’s blood exams and enterprise dealings.

Prosecutors tried placing the blame on Mr. Balwani for monetary projections that Theranos confirmed to buyers and the situation of its labs. New witnesses included buyers and executives who dealt immediately with Mr. Balwani, reasonably than Ms. Holmes.

One projection, offered to buyers in October 2014, confirmed Theranos would herald $140 million that yr. In actuality, income was $150,000. The following yr, Mr. Balwani projected almost $1 billion in income in pitches to buyers. Theranos’s inner projections had been a lot decrease, proof confirmed, and the truth was $429,210.

Mr. Schenk mentioned Theranos’s leaders had directed its scientists to validate blood exams and start providing exams to the general public solely when it wanted cash from buyers or clients. “Not when the science was prepared,” he mentioned.

A brand new witness, Patrick Mendenhall, who dealt immediately with Mr. Balwani whereas investing in Theranos, outlined the guarantees that turned out to be deceptive or false.

Brian Grossman, an investor on the hedge fund PFM Well being Sciences, who was additionally a witness in Ms. Holmes’s trial, testified that Mr. Balwani had supplied his staff with monetary projections that far overstated Theranos’s projected income.

“When Mr. Balwani communicates with an investor, it’s for a function, and the aim is to deceive them to get cash,” Mr. Schenk mentioned.

Prosecutors additionally emphasised Mr. Balwani’s position in operating Theranos’s lab, which the manager known as a “catastrophe zone” in a 2014 textual content message. Mr. Balwani would additionally “take away dissent” by intimidating or pushing out workers who expressed concern about Theranos exams, like Dr. Adam Rosendorff, a former lab director who testified in each trials, Mr. Schenk mentioned.

Mr. Coopersmith, the protection lawyer, mentioned that the federal government had painted a “extremely deceptive” image of Mr. Balwani’s time at Theranos and that it was unfair to point out out-of-context personal texts as proof of a conspiracy.

The messages didn’t present Mr. Balwani telling anybody to commit fraud, Mr. Coopersmith mentioned. “If there was a conspiracy, you’d suppose there can be every kind of conspiratorial, sinister conversations, and there simply isn’t,” he mentioned.

Notably absent from the witness stand had been James Mattis, a former protection secretary and Theranos board member, and Ms. Holmes, who had each testified in Ms. Holmes’s trial. Mr. Balwani didn’t testify in his protection.

If he’s convicted, Mr. Balwani and Ms. Holmes can be sentenced collectively in September.

Erin Woo contributed reporting.

Twitter Worker Accused of Spying for Saudi Arabia Heads to Trial

SAN FRANCISCO — Whereas working at Twitter from 2013 to 2015, Ahmad Abouammo was chargeable for serving to celebrities, journalists and different notable figures within the Center East promote their Twitter accounts. He dealt with requests for Twitter’s coveted blue verification badges and organized excursions of the San Francisco headquarters.

However the Justice Division says he misused his entry to Twitter person information, gathering the private data of political dissidents and passing it to Saudi Arabia in trade for a luxurious watch and tons of of 1000’s of {dollars}.

Mr. Abouammo, who’s charged with appearing as an agent of a international energy inside the US, committing wire fraud and laundering cash, is ready to face trial this week in federal court docket in San Francisco.

“We sit up for vindicating Mr. Abouammo and for him to have his day in court docket,” stated Angela Chuang, a lawyer representing him. The federal government expects Mr. Abouammo’s authorized group to argue that he labored lawfully as a guide to Saudi Arabia, in keeping with a court docket submitting. Ms. Chuang declined to touch upon authorized technique.

The case, which illustrates the Saudi authorities’s depth in pursuing details about its critics, is unfolding at a fragile level in diplomacy between the US and Saudi Arabia.

Final week, President Biden made his first go to as president to the dominion, which he had as soon as vowed to make a “pariah,” in hopes of securing nearer Saudi-Israeli relations and reduction from excessive fuel costs. Mr. Biden met with Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, typically identified by his initials, M.B.S., and different Saudi officers. However human rights activists sharply criticized the go to, arguing that the president was glossing over the homicide of Jamal Khashoggi, the Washington Publish columnist who was assassinated in 2018 by Saudi operatives.

Additionally it is a fraught second for Twitter, as the corporate faces heightened scrutiny over its information safety practices and wages a high-stakes authorized battle towards Elon Musk, who’s making an attempt to again out of a deal to amass the social media firm.

Whereas Twitter has stated it restricted worker entry to person information after Mr. Abouammo departed the corporate in 2015, it has continued to battle with safety issues. In 2020, hackers hijacked the accounts of well-known customers, together with Mr. Musk, to advertise a cryptocurrency rip-off.

In Could, Twitter agreed to pay a $150 million tremendous to settle prices that it misled customers about the way it handled their private information. Twitter had advised customers that it was gathering their e-mail addresses and cellphone numbers to guard their accounts, but additionally used the knowledge to assist entrepreneurs goal advertisements.

Mr. Abouammo was charged in 2019 together with one other former Twitter worker, Ali Alzabarah. The Justice Division stated the lads had used their Twitter entry to dig up details about 1000’s of customers and shared the knowledge with Ahmed Almutairi, who the division stated had served as their go-between with Saudi officers. Mr. Almutairi beforehand ran a social media advertising firm that did work for the Saudi royal household.

The boys gathered “personal person information, corresponding to gadget identifiers, cellphone numbers, IP addresses, all of which might have been utilized by the Saudi authorities to determine and find the people behind the accounts, together with political dissidents,” the Justice Division stated in a court docket submitting.

When Twitter administration confronted Mr. Alzabarah, he fled to Saudi Arabia, the Justice Division stated. He and Mr. Almutairi stay needed by U.S. legislation enforcement. Mr. Abouammo, who labored briefly at Amazon after leaving Twitter, was arrested in Seattle in 2019. He’s free on bail however traveled to the San Francisco Bay Space for the trial.

In recent times, the Justice Division has cracked down on lobbyists and others who work to additional the pursuits of international governments however don’t disclose it. For years, prosecutors had largely ignored such circumstances; from 1966 till 2015, the Justice Division pursued solely seven circumstances beneath the International Brokers Registration Act, which requires lobbyists to reveal their work on behalf of international governments.

One of many 6,000 Twitter accounts that Mr. Alzabarah is accused of on behalf of Saudi officers in 2015 belonged to Omar Abdulaziz, a outstanding Saudi dissident and confidant of Mr. Khashoggi, folks acquainted with the case stated. Mr. Abdulaziz has sued Twitter over the breach; the case is in mediation, in keeping with his attorneys and court docket data.

“The issue is larger than Abouammo,” stated Behnam Gharagozli, a lawyer for Mr. Abdulaziz. “The issue is systemic right here. The issue is the best way the information was dealt with again then.”

A Twitter spokeswoman stated that “Twitter’s data safety practices endure rigorous audits by an exterior auditor — as has been the case since 2012.” She added: “Twitter’s funding in its safety practices are longstanding, and people safety practices evolve consistently to satisfy new safety challenges and to discourage and forestall each exterior and potential inside dangerous actors. Twitter takes these threats extraordinarily severely.”

Mr. Abdulaziz, who lives in exile in Canada, hosts a YouTube channel and maintains a preferred Twitter account, the place he shares satire and criticism of the Saudi authorities. “What occurred because of this information sharing was that he went from one in every of many outstanding Saudi dissidents to one in every of a choose few,” Mr. Gharagozli stated.

Mr. Gharagozli stated family members and pals of Mr. Abdulaziz who remained in Saudi Arabia have been imprisoned, in what he known as an try at “torture by proxy” of Mr. Abdulaziz. A spokeswoman for the Saudi authorities declined to remark.

“What issues to Omar is the platform being protected, or on the very least safer, going ahead,” stated Mark Kleiman, one other lawyer for Mr. Abdulaziz. “He put it in a means that basically struck me early on. He stated: ‘Twitter is our Parliament. To have it stormed and completely occupied, which is actually what has occurred with the best way M.B.S.’s tech offensive has labored, is devastating.’”

Elon Musk and Twitter to Go to Trial Over Deal In October

Twitter and Elon Musk will go to trial in October over whether or not the billionaire should full his $44 billion acquisition of the social media firm, a Delaware decide dominated on Tuesday.

The ruling was the primary determination in a lawsuit that Twitter filed this month to pressure Mr. Musk, the world’s richest man, to undergo with the blockbuster deal. Mr. Musk had agreed to purchase Twitter in April, however indicated this month that he wished to terminate the acquisition. Twitter had sought to expedite the case by requesting a trial in September, which Mr. Musk had countered by asking for a trial in February.

“The longer the merger transaction stays in limbo, the bigger a cloud of uncertainty is solid over the corporate,” stated Kathaleen St. J. McCormick, the decide overseeing the case within the Delaware Court docket of Chancery, in an almost two-hour listening to.

The ruling was a win for Twitter, which stated an prolonged timeline would give Mr. Musk extra time to badger the corporate and discover a approach out of the deal. Choose McCormick dominated that the trial would final 5 days, with the precise date to be based mostly on the schedules of the courtroom and the legal professionals within the case.

“We’re happy that the courtroom agreed to expedite this trial,” a Twitter spokesman stated.

Alex Spiro, a lawyer representing Mr. Musk, stated, “We’ll be prepared.”

When Mr. Musk agreed to purchase Twitter, he stated that he would take it personal and that the corporate had loads of potential. However inside weeks, he started arguing that Twitter had stymied his makes an attempt to know how most of the accounts on its platform have been faux and stated the corporate was not disclosing related info to him.

Twitter has stated Mr. Musk was looking for a approach out of the acquisition because the inventory market slumped. The corporate has stated it labored with Mr. Musk to offer him details about faux accounts.

Within the listening to on Tuesday, Twitter pushed for the lawsuit to be resolved as rapidly as potential. Invoice Savitt, a lawyer for Twitter, stated the “continued uncertainty” over the deal “inflicts hurt on Twitter, each hour of daily,” and requested {that a} trial be scheduled in September. Postponements would permit Mr. Musk to expire the clock on financing for the deal, Mr. Savitt stated.

Legal professionals for Mr. Musk stated the billionaire wanted extra time to investigate extraordinary quantities of knowledge to find out whether or not Twitter had precisely counted the variety of inauthentic accounts on its platform.

Twitter is making an attempt to “shroud” its bot figures, stated Andy Rossman, a lawyer for Mr. Musk, “so long as essential to get this deal railroaded by way of.”

Why Alex Jones’s Trial Won’t Stop the Spread of Lies

If it hadn’t been so excruciatingly unhappy, Alex Jones’s defamation trial may need been cathartic.

Mr. Jones, the supplement-slinging conspiracy theorist, was ordered to pay greater than $45 million in damages to Neil Heslin and Scarlett Lewis, the mother and father of a 6-year-old who was murdered within the 2012 mass taking pictures at Sandy Hook Elementary Faculty in Newtown, Conn. The jury’s verdict got here after Mr. Jones was discovered answerable for defaming Mr. Heslin and Ms. Lewis, whom for years he falsely accused of being disaster actors in a “false flag” operation plotted by the federal government.

To the victims of Mr. Jones’s harassment campaigns, and to those that have adopted his profession for years, the decision felt lengthy overdue — a infamous web villain lastly going through actual penalties for his actions. The households of the kids killed at Sandy Hook, lots of whom have waited years to see Mr. Jones pay for his lies, are little question relieved.

However earlier than we rejoice Mr. Jones’s comeuppance, we should always acknowledge that the decision in opposition to him is unlikely to place a lot of a dent within the phenomenon he represents: belligerent fabulists constructing worthwhile media empires with simply disprovable lies.

Mr. Jones’s megaphone has shrunk lately — thanks, partly, to selections by tech platforms like Fb and Twitter to bar him from their companies. However his attain remains to be substantial, and he has extra affect than you may suppose.

Courtroom data confirmed that Mr. Jones’s Infowars retailer, which sells doubtful performance-enhancing dietary supplements and survival gear, made greater than $165 million from 2015 to 2018. Regardless of his deplatforming, Mr. Jones nonetheless seems as a visitor on popular podcasts and YouTube exhibits, and thousands and thousands of Individuals nonetheless look to him as, if not a dependable chronicler of present occasions, not less than a wacky diversion. (And a rich one — an knowledgeable witness within the trial estimated the net value of Mr. Jones and Free Speech Techniques, his holding firm, at someplace between $135 million and $270 million.)

Within the coming weeks, Mr. Jones — a maestro of martyrdom — will little question spin his courtroom defeat into hours of entertaining content material, all of which can generate extra consideration, extra subscribers, more cash.

However a much bigger purpose for warning is that, whether or not or not Mr. Jones stays personally enriched by his lies, his shtick is in all places lately.

You possibly can see and listen to Mr. Jones’s affect on Capitol Hill, the place attention-seeking Republican politicians usually sound like they’re auditioning for slots on Infowars. When Consultant Marjorie Taylor Greene, Republican of Georgia, suggests {that a} mass taking pictures may have been orchestrated to steer Republicans to help gun-control measures, as she did in a Facebook post in regards to the July 4 taking pictures in Highland Park, Sick., she’s taking part in hits from Mr. Jones’s again catalog. Mr. Jones additionally performed a job in fueling the Jan. 6, 2021, assault on the Capitol, in methods we’re nonetheless studying about. (The Home panel investigating the rebel has requested for a replica of the textual content messages from Mr. Jones’s telephone that have been mistakenly despatched to the legal professionals representing the plaintiffs in his defamation case.)

It’s also possible to see Mr. Jones’s affect in right-wing media. When Tucker Carlson stokes nativist fears on his Fox Information present, or when a Newsmax host spins a bizarre conspiracy theory about an effort by Nancy Pelosi, the Home speaker, to have Justice Brett Kavanaugh of the Supreme Courtroom killed, it’s proof that Infowars’ DNA has entered the conservative bloodstream.

Even outdoors politics, Mr. Jones’s choleric, wide-eyed fashion has influenced the best way wherein a brand new technology of conspiracy theorists appears to be like for fame on-line.

These creators don’t all rant about goblins and homosexual frogs, as Mr. Jones has. However they’re pulling from the identical fact-free playbook. A few of them concentrate on softer subject material — just like the kooky wellness influencers who recently went viral for suggesting that Lyme illness is a “present” brought on by intergalactic house matter, or like Shane Dawson, a well-liked YouTube creator who has racked up a whole lot of thousands and thousands of views with conspiracy concept documentaries wherein he credulously examines claims corresponding to “Chuck E. Cheese reuses uneaten pizza” and “Wildfires are brought on by directed power weapons.”

Sure components of left-wing and centrist discourse additionally owe a debt to Mr. Jones. The “Pink Scare” podcast, which is in style with an anti-establishment “post-left” crowd, has interviewed Mr. Jones and shares some overlapping pursuits. A lot of the unhinged protection and evaluation of the authorized battle between Johnny Depp and Amber Heard, which dominated social media this summer time, had a Jonesian tinge. Even Joe Rogan, the favored podcast host (who has hosted Mr. Jones on his present and has defended him as “hilarious” and “entertaining”), has borrowed among the Infowars founder’s connect-the-dots paranoia in arguing, for instance, that Covid-19 vaccines can alter your genes.

It might be too easy guilty (or credit score) Mr. Jones for uplifting your entire fashionable cranksphere. But it surely’s secure to say that lots of at present’s main conspiracy theorists have discovered the identical worthwhile candy spot of lies and leisure worth. It’s additionally possible that we’ve grow to be desensitized to conspiracy theories, and most of the outrageous falsehoods that after obtained Mr. Jones into bother — such because the allegations about Sandy Hook mother and father that have been on the middle of his defamation trial — would sound much less stunning if uttered at present.

Different conspiracy theorists are much less probably than Mr. Jones to finish up in courtroom, partly as a result of they’ve discovered from his errors. As an alternative of straightforwardly accusing the households of mass-shooting victims of creating all of it up, they undertake a naïve, “simply asking questions” p
osture whereas poking holes within the official narrative. When attacking a foe, they tiptoe proper as much as the road of defamation, being cautious to not do something that would get them sued or barred from social media. And after they lead harassment campaigns, they choose their targets correctly — usually maligning public figures somewhat than non-public residents, which provides them broader speech protections underneath the First Modification.

That’s to not say there received’t be extra lawsuits, or makes an attempt to carry conspiracy theorists accountable. Fox Information, for one, is going through a defamation lawsuit from Dominion Voting Techniques, which claims that the community knowingly made false statements about voter fraud within the 2020 election.

However these instances are the exceptions, not the rule. The reality is that at present’s media ecosystem is overflowing with Infowars-style conspiracy theories — from Historical past Channel exhibits about historical aliens constructing the Egyptian pyramids to TikToks made by yoga mothers who suppose Wayfair is promoting trafficked kids — and it’s not clear that our authorized system can, or ought to even try and, cease them.

Social media firms will help curb the unfold of dangerous lies by making it more durable for fabulists to amass enormous audiences. However they’ve their very own limitations, together with the straightforward incontrovertible fact that conspiracy theorists have gotten extra subtle about evading their guidelines. In case you draw a line at claiming that Bigfoot is actual, attention-seeking cranks will merely get their thousands and thousands of views by positing that Bigfoot may be actual and that their audiences can be smart to do their very own analysis to determine what Bigfoot-related secrets and techniques the deep-state cabal is hiding.

To this new, extra refined technology of propagandists and reactionaries, Mr. Jones is an inspiration who ascended the career’s highest peaks. However he’s additionally a cautionary story — of what can occur if you cross too many strains, inform too many simply disprovable lies and refuse to again down.

Mr. Jones isn’t achieved going through the music. Two extra lawsuits introduced in opposition to him by Sandy Hook relations are nonetheless pending, and he may find yourself owing thousands and thousands extra in damages.

However, even when Mr. Jones’s profession is ruined, his legacy of brazen, unrepentant dishonesty will stay on — strengthened, in some methods, by the information of precisely how far you possibly can push a lie earlier than penalties kick in.