The Affluenza Defense

In the latest twist in the fraud case against disgraced former head of Theranos Elizabeth Holmes, it appears that she is bringing in a high priced psychologist in an attempt to get out from under the charges against her.

This is pretty clearly an Affluenza defense, “I’m to young, too pretty, and too white to go to jail.”

She has a right to this defense, but the judge has made what is a routine ruling, that the prosecution has the right to conduct a psychological examination as well, and that they can tape her sessions, and if the prosecution is not playing to lose, a big if will a well connected white defendant, then they should be able blow this defense out of the water.

Holmes spending at least 5 years, and better yet a decade, behind bars is the singles best thing that should ever do for society:  Be an abject lesson to others who would rely on privilege to defraud people:

Elizabeth Holmes—the disgraced founder and ex-CEO of the now-defunct blood-testing startup, Theranos—may use a mental condition as a defense against a slew of federal fraud charges, according to a court document filed this week. Holmes and Theranos’ former president Ramesh “Sunny” Balwani were charged in June 2018 with nine counts of wire fraud and two counts of conspiracy to commit wire fraud. Federal prosecutors allege the pair—who were romantically involved during the alleged crimes—engaged in conspiracy to defraud Theranos investors out of more than $100 million and defraud doctors and patients into falsely believing the company’s faulty blood-testing technology could reliably perform accurate health tests with just drops of blood from a finger-prick.

According to the court document filed this week, Holmes—who is now being tried separately from Balwani—notified the court last December that she plans to submit “expert evidence relating to a mental disease or defect or any other mental condition” that has bearing on the issue of guilt. The expert providing such evidence was named in the document as psychologist Mindy Mechanic, of California State University, Fullerton.

According to Mechanic’s faculty website, she focuses on “psychosocial consequences of violence, trauma, and victimization with an emphasis on violence against women and other forms of interpersonal violence.” The site also notes that Mechanic “frequently provides expert testimony in complex legal cases involving interpersonal violence.”

The strategy here is clear, her legal team will assert that her former business partner, and former personal partner, Ramesh “Sunny” Balwani is a darkly complected man of South Asian extraction, who worked some sort of “Voodoo” over an innocent white girl, and made her defraud stupid rich folks.


In response to Holmes’ plans to provide mental health evidence, federal prosecutors requested that they should also be able to examine Holmes’ mental state and provide their own psychiatric evidence in court as a fair rebuttal.

The judge in the case, US District Judge Edward Davila of the Northern District of California, agreed with the prosecutors. As such, he ordered Holmes to undergo up to 14 hours of psychological testing and psychiatric evaluation by two government-appointed doctors over the course of two consecutive days. Davila also ordered that the government’s evaluation of Holmes be recorded on video—over Holmes’ objections. 

It’s nice that the judge made this ruling, and I really hope that the prosecution is serious about calling bullsh%$ on this strategy.


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