It didn’t take Joseph DiBruno Jr. very long to get back into the family business. According to court documents unsealed Thursday, the 52-year-old Gastonia, North Carolina, man has been indicted by a federal grand jury in Charlotte for financial fraud — a cornerstone of his family’s business model dating back to the 1990s. In 2008, DiBruno, along with his father and brother, pleaded guilty to a decade-long conspiracy in which the trio bilked almost $4 million from unwitting investors. According to court documents at the time, the DiBrunos used an array of sham businesses — from a cholesterol-lo...
An Alabama woman who says she was falsely arrested by Walmart for shoplifting and then later threatened by the company has been awarded $2.1 million in damages, AL.com reports.
In her lawsuit, Lesleigh Nurse said he was accused to stealing items she already paid for at the store back in 2016. According to her, she was using the self-checkout system when it froze, and security guards didn't believe her explanation.
When her case was dismissed a year later, a Florida law firm began sending her letters threatening a civil suit if she didn’t pay $200 as a settlement -- an amount she says was more than the items she bought.
According to her, she wasn't the only one receiving those letters.
“The defendants have engaged in a pattern and practice of falsely accusing innocent Alabama citizens of shoplifting and thereafter attempting to collect money from the innocently accused,” the suit stated.
WKRG reports that Walmart and other major retailers routinely use such settlements in states where laws allow it, adding that that Walmart made hundreds of millions of dollars using this tactic during a two-year period.
Celebrity doctor Mehmet Oz officially announced he would run for the U.S. Senate in Pennsylvania Tuesday.
Writing in the Daily Beast, a fellow physician said that he has the same amount of enthusiasm for Oz's candidacy as he would with a case of dysentery, the intestinal infection that causes bloody diarrhea.
Dr. Daniel Summers, MD, begged Pennsylvania not to do "this," meaning elect Oz.
"It’s been obvious for years that Oz is more than happy to leverage his reputation as a cardiothoracic surgeon and medical scientist in service to his own celebrity and advancement, and isn’t one to let quaint little things like facts stand in his way," he wrote. "Stroll down a checkout aisle in your local grocery store, and chances are strong you’ll see his smiling face on the cover of a magazine touting some wildly unhealthy weight-loss claim. He’s been promoting pseudoscience on his show for years, from obesity 'remedies' like green coffee and garcinia cambogia to hawking 'homeopathy starter kits,' so this is nothing new."
In fact, Oz faced criticism for hosting a show in which he debated the utility of "reparative therapy" and "forms of therapy that are designed to turn a gay person straight," even though they've been banned by many states at the urging of the American Psychological Association.
In April 2020, Oz also spurred controversy because he said that children should be sent back into schools despite the fact that the novel coronavirus pandemic had only just begun and there were no vaccines or therapeutics yet available.
“I tell you, schools are a very appetizing opportunity,” he said, claiming that resuming classes “may only cost us 2 to 3 percent in terms of total mortality," according to his "reading" of medical journals.
The mistake was so substantial that Oz later provided a kind of half-apology, saying that he "misspoke."
I\u2019ve realized my comments on risks around opening schools have confused and upset people, which was never my intention. I misspoke.pic.twitter.com/Kq1utwiCjR— Dr. Mehmet Oz (@Dr. Mehmet Oz) 1587072030
But what Dr. Summers finds worse is that Oz eagerly pushed treatments like hydroxychloroquine for COVID patients. He even went so far as to push the drug on Fox & Friends. It prompted Dr. Anthony Fauci, a virologist, to explain that the data simply wasn't clear at the time.
“Although there is some suggestion [of effectiveness] with the study that was just mentioned by Dr. Oz . . . I think we’ve got to be careful that we don’t make that majestic leap to assume that this is a knockout drug,” Fauci said at the time. “We still need to do the kinds of studies that definitively prove whether any intervention, not just this one . . . is truly safe and effective.”
The NIH ultimately did study the use of the drug on those suffering from COVID and found that after 14 days of taking the hydroxychloroquine vs. a placebo, there was no difference in the patients.
"Medical misinformation is literally killing people, and it is unconscionable that anyone who should know better would contribute to it. And Oz most certainly should and does know better," said Dr. Summers. "It is telling that Oz would see a space for himself in the Republican primary field. The GOP is riddled with prominent figures who undermine the seriousness of the pandemic, refute the importance of getting vaccinated, and denigrate the public health officials tasked with keeping the American people as safe and healthy as possible. Voters for those people are the ones Oz sees himself capable of wooing. That is the base he will need to capture to make his candidacy a success."
In the midst of all the tumult over the pandemic and other ongoing political disasters, it's easy to overlook the other historically remarkable moment happening right now: Ghislaine Maxwell and Elizabeth Holmes, the defendants in the two most high profile trials in the country this week, both happen to be women.
The crimes the two are charged with are, to be clear, very different. Maxwell's alleged victims are innocent teenage girls who she is accused of sex trafficking for her boyfriend, Jeffrey Epstein. The alleged victims in the Holmes case, on the other hand, are less sympathetic — wealthy investors who were seemingly snookered due to their own arrogance and poor character judgment. (Holmes' company, Theranos, also harmed ordinary people who got false tests showing results like breast cancer or HIV, but they are not technically the victims in the government's fraud case.) But in a society where men are three times as likely to be charged with a crime than women, it's notable that what the two most famous alleged criminals on trial right now have in common is their gender.
To be certain, they have other things in common, as well.
Both are white women from high-class backgrounds. Their alleged crimes played out in the world of famous and wealthy people. Both seem to have a peculiar charm that they are accused of using to manipulate people. And most disturbingly, both have legal defenses that are relying on a glib and phony form of feminism.
Whether it works or not, feminists should be alarmed by this defense strategy, as it has the potential to confuse the public about what feminism is and what it isn't — and whether or not women should be treated like true equals of men, even if that means holding them equally accountable for their behavior.
"Ever since Eve has been blamed for tempting Adam with an apple, women have been blamed for things men have done," Maxwell's lawyer, Bobbi Sternheim, said during her opening statements on Monday. She called Maxwell a "scapegoat," and added, "She is not Jeffrey Epstein. She is not anything like Jeffrey Epstein."
On the stand this week, Holmes finally unveiled a defense that her legal team has been hinting at throughout the trial: That she is not accountable for fraud, because she's the hapless victim of male abuse. On Monday, Holmes first testified that she was a rape victim in college, suggesting that is the reason she dropped out of Stanford at 19 in order to start Theranos. Prior to being charged with defrauding investors, however, Holmes had portrayed her dropping out in purely positive terms. She was routinely equated with other Silicon Valley figures— most notably her hero, Apple CEO Steve Jobs — who had dropped out because their purported genius could not be contained by the tedium of traditional education.
Holmes then got into the meat of her defense, accusing her business partner and then-boyfriend, Ramesh "Sunny" Balwani, of being controlling and abusive. "Holmes testified that Balwani, 20 years her senior, coached her to adopt a rigorous daily schedule, dictated how she should control her body movements and behave as a business person, and forced her to have sex with him, 'because he said he wanted me to know that he still loved me,'" NBC News reports.
All this may be true, though Balwani denies it. But as an explanation for why Holmes repeatedly appeared to mislead investors, it leaves a lot to be desired. Instead, as with the opening statements in the Maxwell case, the defense appears to be leaning heavily on sexist assumptions that women simply don't have the agency to be true criminal masterminds, and that all responsibility for that kind of behavior must lay with men. Worse, in both cases, this sexist assumption is being repackaged as a kind of feminism in the #MeToo era.
It's frustrating because it is true that a lot of women in prison for various crimes probably don't deserve to be there because their crimes are a direct reaction to abuse or the result of being coerced by abusive men. But those kinds of crimes, such as drug use or prostitution, are often victimless crimes. In other cases, women are in prison for literally trying to defend themselves against abusive men.
Maxwell, on the other hand, is accused of procuring underage girls for Epstein's sexual exploitation, and even participating herself. Holmes is accused of lying to investors about what Theranos medical devices are capable of doing. These are not situations where someone is using drugs to cope with trauma or being forced into sex work. There's a deliberation to their behavior over literal years that simply can't be squared with the idea that they lacked agency and were under some kind of male control.
These kinds of defenses aren't really any kind of feminism, despite the trappings. They owe more to long-standing sexist beliefs that paint women as simply incapable of making any kind of decision, good or bad, and instead assuming all female choice-making is secretly controlled by men. While that stereotype may benefit these two women in their defenses, on the whole, it's very bad for women. The refusal to treat women as legitimate choice-makers, for instance, is used to deny women reproductive rights, job promotions, or even a chance to be political leaders. Allowing that women have the ability to make choices means accepting that sometimes, they make bad ones — or even criminal ones.
Holmes, in particular, has shown an adeptness at manipulating both feminist hopes and sexist stereotypes to get what she wants. She dressed and carried herself in a self-consciously masculine manner when she was allegedly defrauding investors, leaning into sexist assumptions about what "smart" and "capable" look like. Now that it benefits her to look less competent, however, she has adopted a more feminine style of hair and dress. Similarly, Maxwell is accused of using her gender and assumptions about women being "safe" to lure in Epstein's victims.
Both cases definitely underscore feminist arguments about how gender is more of a performance than a biological reality. But both defenses are depending on jurors not getting that, and instead assuming that women are inherently less capable than men.
Will it work?
Time will only tell, but there's good reason for feminists to hope it won't. Women's equality doesn't just mean accepting that women are equal to men in intelligence and competence. It also means accepting that a small percentage of women, like a small percentage of men, use those skills for bad purposes. Feminism is not well-served by the stereotype of women as hapless children who can't be assumed responsible for their own behavior. The trials of Holmes and Maxwell will serve as an interesting test of whether or not this more nuanced view of what women's equality truly means has sunk in with the public.