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Making Elizabeth Holmes’ cringey texts public is the ultimate crime deterrent

Making Elizabeth Holmes’ cringey texts public is the ultimate crime deterrent


This is maybe my worst nightmare

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Theranos Executives Elizabeth Holmes And Sunny Balwani Return To Court
Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

The Elizabeth Holmes trial has made me more determined than ever to avoid doing crimes. I’ll be sticking to the law from here on out, thank you very much. It’s not for any noble reason — I don’t have any new sense of morality or sudden desire to be a very good person. No, I am zealously sticking to the law because doing crimes could, theoretically, put me in the same position disgraced Theranos founder Holmes is in right now: having my text message history revealed in court. 

Dozens of text messages between Holmes and her ex-boyfriend (and ex-business partner) Sunny Balwani were read aloud during Holmes’ trial for fraud this week. Thousands were released by the prosecution and more were obtained by CNBC. Some of the messages talked about problems with the blood testing technology, which might help prosecutors show that Holmes knew that they didn’t work as advertised. Others were much more... personal. Like when Holmes texted Balwani “you are the breeze in desert for me.” Now, along with the “might go to jail” thing, Holmes has to live with the knowledge that everyone knows she sent that text. 

I am not sure if I’m being hyperbolic when I say that is my very worst nightmare. I can confidently say that I’ve never told someone that they’re the breeze in the desert, but my text history is still embarrassing as hell. Isn’t everyone’s? Mine is full of bad tweets and shit talking and screenshots that should never, ever see the light of day. Searching for the word “murder” in iMessage brings up dozens of results, most of which are in conversations about online dating. Here are some moderately-cringe-but-not-too-terrible messages I’ve sent recently:

Text message reading: Why does he look like a caricature of what Jonathan Franzen should look like. Does that make sense
Is this embarrassing?
Text message reading: Wow ya. Twilight is so relevant
Okay, I stand by this.

And I got to carefully curate these! I got to comb through and pick only a few messages that I thought would help communicate that I am someone who sends somewhat embarrassing texts but am not TOO weird. Holmes just had everything dumped on the internet for anyone to see.

To be clear, plenty of the missives included in the trial are things the prosecution might be able to use to try and prove she was guilty. But there’s still so much that feels relevant for more relatable reasons. Like when Balwani texted her in April 2015: “The Vegas trip is such a distraction. Bad timing. But the guys bought everything non refundable. So we will do it. But then I don’t want distractions until we win.” She responded: “Then let’s focus on it in our room, do dinner, and go back early.” “I don’t like distractions ever.”

Having to minimize upcoming plans to make yourself seem hardworking? We’ve all been there (we have, right?), but we all also don’t need a full courtroom to know.

Another thing I’d rather not have entered into the public record are the times I’ve sent a risky text and not gotten a response. It’s now public knowledge that Holmes texted Balwani that in her new life, she’d have “total confidence in myself best business person of the year.” Ten minutes later, when she didn’t get an answer, she followed up with “No response?” Seems like the Holmes version of a “are you ghosting me lol” text that I definitely have not sent, ever. And if I had, I’d sooner die than let into the public record.

I asked a friend what she would do if that happened to her. “Hang myself I assume,” she responded, in another dubious (and to be clear, exaggerated) entry into both of our iMessage histories.

If very high-profile public trials like this one can be a deterrent against other people committing crimes like the ones Holmes is accused of, this one is working. I can confidently say I will not develop an inaccurate medical testing device and defraud investors. I am going to be very, very good. 

Update October 4th, 3:53PM ET: Updated to add additional texts.