NICK OTTO / AFP via Getty Images
During the first day of jury selection in the federal Elizabeth Holmes fraud trial, an incognito San Diego hotel mogul pulled a large Rice Krispie treat from his pocket.
Loudly. So loud, in fact, that the judge’s voice was barely audible at the back of the courtroom compared to the sound of his stirring the well-wrapped plastic brick-shaped snack.
“My name is Hanson,” said the man, wearing a Patagonia baseball cap and puffer jacket.
He was sociable and talkative, adjectives that rarely describe those attending one of the most high-profile trials in Silicon Valley history. Holmes, the former head of blood testing company Theranos, faces up to 20 years in prison if convicted of defrauding investors and patients over the company’s technology.
At the start of the trial, the man presented himself to journalists as an ordinary man who had come out of curiosity and nothing more.
“I repair old cars for a living,” he said.
“Elizabeth and I are the only two people not getting paid to be here,” he added.
While the courtroom drama then centered around twelve Californians forming the jury that would decide Holmes’ fate, reporters in the courtroom had other burning questions: Who was this man? Why was he talking so much to all the reporters? Did he have a connection to Holmes that he was not revealing?
When asked, he was enigmatic.
” Do I know her ? Does anyone know her? What does it even mean to know someone these days? The man told NPR in the courtroom.
Shortly after, he called himself a “concerned citizen interested in the lawsuit”. He said he had always been on his bucket list to attend a trial.
His story, however, would soon fall apart.
New York Times journalist: “I couldn’t believe my eyes”
During the two days of jury selection, he chatted with reporters queuing to enter the courthouse, during breaks and even during the trial.
He kept more or less the same story: He was a car enthusiast who acted as a media watchdog, making sure the media coverage matched what he observed in court. He was suspicious of the way the press had treated Elizabeth Holmes, he said.
“No journalist has ever told the real story about him,” he said. “Everyone is copying and pasting other people’s stories without thinking.”
The opening pleadings of the trial began a week later. Holmes entered the courthouse surrounded by members of her family. And among them, the entourage was Hanson.
He had lost the puffer jacket and the baseball cap. Instead, he wore a gray suit and a dark black tie.
“I couldn’t believe my eyes,” said New York Times reporter Erin Griffith. “I immediately started asking other reporters, and they were like, ‘I think that was him,’ and when we walked inside and saw him up close, it was like ‘Yes, that was him.’ “
Nic Coury / AP
The revelation quickly spread among journalists.
Indeed, “Hanson”, it turned out, is William “Bill” L. Evans, the 61-year-old father of Holmes’ partner Billy Evans, with whom she just had a baby boy.
“It took a second to say, ‘Wait, Hanson is Billy’s father?’ This is insane, “CNBC producer Yasmin Khorram said.
Hotelier Maverick San Diego also goes through “BlitzenBill”
The Evanses are among the most prominent families in the hospitality industry in San Diego. Their rich history dates back to 1953, when Bill Evans’ parents, William and Anne, founded Evans Hotels. Bill now runs the business, which includes three of the city’s most vibrant hotels.
He inherited another San Diego institution from his father: Evans Garage, a private museum and event space that houses vintage cars dating as far back as the 1880s. The closed collection includes vehicles that make pale car enthusiasts, like a replica of a 1909 Blitzen Benz, which seems to be the inspiration for its Instagram name, BlitzenBill.
Perhaps the exclusive collection of vintage and classic cars was what Evans was referring to when he said he repaired old cars for a living.
At first glance, this biography was not exactly suitable for journalists, who spotted other clues that made them think.
Don Kelsen / Los Angeles Times via Getty Imag
“I just didn’t fully believe he didn’t know more about Theranos or Elizabeth Holmes in some capacity because he wasn’t developing those questions,” CNN reporter Sara Ashley O’Brien said. “He claimed to be called ‘Hanson’, but he had a different name on his Starbucks mug.”
The mug he was holding said Bill or Billy, not Hanson, she recalls.
She also remembered noticing her shoes: expensive Salvatore Ferragamo moccasins.
“Quite sophisticated shoes for a random man attending a trial,” she said.
Before his true identity was revealed, Evans shared an elevator ride with reporters covering the trial.
“Are you a mole?” I asked him point blank.
He joked that he had a mole on his bald head. The conversation got out of hand.
Before that, CNBC’s Khorram had followed him out of the courtroom to ask if he was paying for the lush Silicon Valley estate where his son and Holmes are staying. He ignored her.
“And then I said, ‘Why did you tell us your name was Hanson,’ Khorram said.” And he reserved it for the men’s bathroom. “
Evans responds: “People have nicknames”
In his interactions with reporters, he mixed truths with untruths.
For example, he spoke of having recently spent time in Tanzania with his family, a trip confirmed by social media posts documenting the Evans clan soaking up what appears to be a safari complex there. East Africa.
“It’s too ironic,” said Griffith of the Times. “That Elizabeth Holmes is on trial for fraud and that the media have these full two days of interacting with someone who was misrepresenting their extended family.”
When contacted by phone to explain why he came up with a false name and concealed his connection to Holmes, Evans said he had no recollection of sitting next to me for seven hours during of the first day of jury selection. He did not deny telling reporters his name was “Hanson”. Instead, he defended it.
“People have nicknames and you can be free to use them,” Evans said. “On that note, I’ll say goodbye.”
Evans does not have return additional calls.