Though their signature product addicted millions and killed hundreds of thousands, not a single member of the Sackler family—owners of Purdue Pharma, maker of OxyContin—has gone to prison. Though his computer applications—Facebook, Instagram—have shattered the attention span of the public and turned us into a bunch of distracted, conspiracy-believing ninnies, Mark Zuckerberg continues to make his billions. Though they hid the true cost of fossil fuels for decades, giving us a prospect of sunken cities, melting ice sheets, and picnics at the North Pole, the C.E.O.’s of Exxon have neither forfeited their bonuses, changed their tee times, or expressed remorse. And what about Adam Neumann, the grifter genius behind WeWork? What’s he doing now other than raking in the dough and attending super-fancy conferences?

Meanwhile, Elizabeth Holmes, founder of defunct blood-testing start-up Theranos, who did indeed lie and misrepresent but victimized mostly super-wealthy investors—Betsy DeVos, Rupert Murdoch, the Walton family—has been convicted on four counts of fraud, and will likely spend time in prison.

As Bob Dylan says, “Steal a little and they throw you in jail, steal a lot and they make you king.”

Another thought: Thank God it’s over! The Holmes trial, which started in September, carried on till the days became weeks and the weeks went on forever, unfolding in super slo-mo as other greater or lesser villains—Kyle Rittenhouse, Ghislaine Maxwell—came before the bar, were tried, convicted or acquitted, freed or jailed, and the world went on. A spectacle that began in one era—Delta variant, boosters for only the old and compromised, Antonio Brown starting afresh in Tampa—has ended beneath an Omicron sun, amid N95 masks, universal boosting, and a half-nude Antonio Brown throwing his gear into the seats at MetLife Stadium.

Each aspect of the case riveted the media, the dozens of reporters who gathered to watch Holmes, masked, her eyes a little sadder and more tired each day, mount the courthouse steps hand in hand with her mom and husband, or mom and lawyer, or lawyer and husband, as if to show that she too is loved, as if to suggest that, if not held, she’d simply float away.

As Bob Dylan says, “Steal a little and they throw you in jail, steal a lot and they make you king.”

The prosecution argued that Holmes lied to investors while making the case for the Edison, her company’s blood-testing machine meant to change the world by solving a generally nonexistent problem—giving blood is no big deal—while the defense countered with George Costanza logic: “It’s not a lie if you believe it.”

There were big-ticket witnesses early, whistleblowers, burned investors, and the boldfaced board member, former defense secretary James “Mad Dog” Mattis. Then came the weeds, the nuts and bolts of what Theranos promised compared with what was delivered. Blood tests, supposedly run on the Edison, were outsourced to commercial labs or done on competing machines.

Following her conviction on four counts, Elizabeth Holmes walks with her partner, Billy Evans; her mother, Noel Holmes; and a lawyer.

Then the drama with the jury: one juror dismissed for playing sudoku during the trial, another for work, another because she was a Buddhist and as a Buddhist did not believe she could sit in judgment on another human being, especially one like Holmes, mother of a newborn. If having a baby so close to the trial was a tactic, as cynics suggest, it backfired, resulting in the dismissal of maybe the most sympathetic juror. When my time comes, I definitely want a Buddhist in the box.

The most anticipated moment finally came late in the trial, when Holmes took the stand in her own defense. Much was made of her magnetic persona when she was riding high—the long blond hair, the big unblinking eyes, the strangely deep voice, and the Steve Jobs–like turtlenecks. The charm that won over some of the market’s savviest investors—they should create a new tort: Fraudulent Use of Charisma—would be turned on the jury, who, many believed, could not possibly resist.

She got to remove her mask on the stand, turn full face to her peers. She pulled every lever in the days that followed, smiled and frowned, was sincere, remorseful, petulant, and filled with optimism. And wept. She said the fault had not been hers but that of the advisers and scientific experts who misled her, or it was her partner and boyfriend, Sunny Bulwani, who she claimed had abused her in the office and at home, controlled her diet and wardrobe, forced unwanted sex, colonized her mind.

Crying on the stand worked for Rittenhouse but not for Holmes. When the verdict came back after more than 50 hours of deliberation stretching over more than a week, it was clear that the vaunted charm had failed, or that her charm is overrated, that it was less magnetism that had won over investors than it was the traditional market drivers: a hint of inside info, a shot at easy money, a chance to get in on the ground floor. Holmes, who took the bad news stoically, reminds me of the gambler who wins all night only to lose everything in the morning.

She could get as many as 80 years, but experts suggest her sentence will most likely be similar to that of Martha Stewart, who spent five months in prison for lying to investors. Holmes will surely appeal, thus continuing the nightmarish odyssey that began with a piece of muckraking journalism on the front page of The Wall Street Journal on October 15, 2015.

Some of us greeted the Holmes trial with great optimism. The judicial scrutiny that largely passed over the instigators of the 2008 economic crisis, that let the phony evangelists behind Trump slide, that have given the murky origins of the coronavirus a skip, had seemingly found its footing in the hothouse of Silicon Valley, a development that could mark the beginning of a prosecutorial era focused on the white-collar froth and bullshit lies of the Gorilla Glass economy. At the end of it all, though, watching Holmes hug her family and friends, I was left with a sense that, the good work of the prosecutors notwithstanding, such trials are what we get instead of justice—a few notable malefactors who lose their liberty so the truly big players can skate free.

Rich Cohen is a Writer at Large for AIR MAIL