After two long years of investigation, rumors, courtroom drama, heartache and loss, the trial of Cindal Johnson’s bathroom scale has finally concluded. It took the jury less than four hours to return a verdict of guilty to all charges, including, conspiracy to commit weight loss fraud, meanness, and the most serious charge, lying. It was a trial that played out on TV sets, smart phones, and office computers across the nation and the world. It made us question the reliability of our justice system, it blurred the lines of right and wrong and drove a wedge of distrust between us and our bathroom scales.
It started almost three years ago, in a sleepy little town called New Bowlingshoes.
It was Springtime, the trees were turning green, the snow had melted, the City Council had just approved new sidewalks for the elderly, things were good in New Bolwingshoes. Cindal Johnson, a married mother of three and full time administrative assistant at Philip’s Insurance and Tae Kwon Do had just received word that she would be honored at that year’s New Bowlingshoes’ Chamber of Commerce Salute to Excellence in the Workplace, or as it was commonly known, the NBCCSEW.
Knowing that the event was black tie, Cindal set out to find an appropriate black dress to wear to the event. Her shopping brought her to Lilly’s Dress Shop, where she purchased an elegant black dress, one size too small. The event was six weeks away and this dress was going to be her motivation to lose the weight she so desperately wanted to shed.
Cindal began running every morning, went on a diet of kale and strawberries, joined a Pilates gym and even cut out her ritual of Friday night wine with her friends. It seemed as if Cindal was well on her way to fitting into that dress, but it was not to be.
First indications of something being horribly wrong occurred on the morning of April 7th, 2013. Cindal had just completed a grueling week of trying to lose weight, yet when she stepped on the scale, it didn’t show that she had lost weight, it actually indicated a gain of two pounds. Three subsequent weigh-ins told the same story.
“That’s when I knew something was very wrong,” said a tearful Cindal, “I knew right then and there that my scale was lying to me.” Hoping for an indication that all of her hard work was paying off, Cindal went to her bathroom mirror to try and confirm her growing fear that the scale was not telling the truth. Her mirror, unfortunately showed a body that appeared to have packed on the flab around the hips and butt. “It was shocking. I was in disbelief. I never should have tried on the dress, but I had to know. I had to know.” Cindal grabbed her dress from the closet, peeled off the protective plastic and tried it on. The dress, which absolutely should have fit, didn’t. It bulged in all the wrong places, making her look like a bag of sand stuffed inside of a sock. “That’s when I called the cops.”
“We got a call about a possible falsification of weight,” said Detective Gary Crackerjack, “I arrived on scene and didn’t notice anything out of the ordinary, at first.” Det. Crackerjack interviewed the dress, the mirror and the scale, all of their stories seemed to check out. He even stepped on the scale and it appeared to be showing the correct weight. “At that point we couldn’t do anything. We had no evidence. I only wish we would have pressed harder, maybe lives didn’t have to be ruined.”
Cindal continued her weight loss regime, only to find that her scale continued to show a weight gain. On the eve of the NBCCSEW, Cindal realized there would be no fitting into her black dress. Instead she forced herself into a maroon, sequined monstrosity and attended the event. “It was the worst night of my life,” said Cindal, “to had to give an acceptance speech wearing a puffy, glittering, atrocity, that looked like it should have been worn by a strung out fairy godmother. It was too much to take.” After the event Cindal dropped into a deep depression. She began eating ice cream straight from the tub and binge eating tater tots. On the evening of June 15th, 2013, her scale indicated a massive twenty-five-pound weight gain. She was discovered, later that evening, in a deep food coma, at Piehole’s All You Can Eat Buffet.
“After we found Cindal, bloated, and nearly unresponsive at Piehole’s, that’s when we returned to the Johnson residence to talk to the scale again,” said Det. Crackerjack. But it wasn’t until they brought the dress in for questioning that the case broke. “We showed the dress pictures of Mrs. Johnson, wearing spaghetti stained sweats, passed out at the table, a chicken wing hanging from her open mouth and the garment spilled its guts.”
According to the dress, the bathroom scale was the mastermind of a conspiracy to cause Cindal to believe that she was not losing any weight, but in fact gaining it. The scale was lying, giving false readings, while the mirror distorted Cindal’s reflection to give the appearance of flabbiness and the dress purposely tightened its stitching to prevent Cindal from comfortably fitting inside. The dress claimed that it was being threatened by the scale if it didn’t go along with the plan. “I feared for my life,” said the dress, “I was told in no uncertain terms that if I didn’t tighten my stitching that I would go to the back of the closet and never come out.”
The dress and the mirror both took plea deals in exchange for testifying against the scale.
“Bullshit. It’s all bullshit. I never lied. I told the truth,” said the bathroom scale from jail, “Cindal was gaining weight. Plain and simple. There were times that she would step on the scale and I swear I could see ice cream stains on her shirt. Did anyone investigate that?”
Lead defense attorney, Fred Ashtray, feels that the investigation was botched from the beginning. “This whole case was a circus. The cops never bothered to chase any other leads. They saw my client as guilty from the moment this started.” During the trial Ashtray was relentless about authorities’ apparent rush to judgement, pressing Det. Crackerjack on the witness stand about his reluctance to interview any of the other household items, especially the fridge. “Crackerjack talked to the fridge one time. One time! He talked to the fridge on a Friday, the day that most of the food from the week had been eaten. Why not interview the fridge on a Monday or a Tuesday? It was well known that Mrs. Johnson did her grocery shopping on Sunday afternoons. If Crackerjack had bothered to do his job he would have seen that the fridge was in fact stocked with junk food early in the week.”
“That’s a lie, I stopped buying junk food, I was trying to lose weight,” said Cindal, in response to Ashtray’s accusation.
“A lie?! A lie?! I’ve got seven independent witnesses that claim they saw Mrs. Johnson purchasing cookies, chips, and wine during the entire six-week time period that she was trying to lose weight. Did the judge allow that testimony in court? Nope. Why not? Because they wanted my client to be guilty, that’s why.”
Ashtray says he will be filing an appeal.
The scale was sentenced to ten years in prison for its crimes.
“I’m in here for something I didn’t do.”
Whether you think the scale was guilty or not, the Weight Watcher case has made us all take a hard look in the mirror, and the scale.
“As a nation we need to heal,” said Cindal, “I want to trust a scale again, I really do, but I don’t know if I’ll ever be able to.”
Perhaps the most disturbing thing about the case is the unanswered question of who would have benefitted from Cindal’s weight gain. Certainly not Cindal, not her dress, the mirror or the scale. All of their lives have been broken. A particular exchange during the jailhouse interview, may shed some light on this subject. When asked who could have benefited from the weight gain the scale became cagy, dodgy, offering up a cryptic answer. “Look, maybe you should be looking at who had the most to lose from Cindal losing weight? Who? Who would no longer be needed if she dropped some pounds? Take a look at the picture of her at Piehole’s. What is she wearing? I’m sorry I’ve said too much. I can’t say anymore, it’s too dangerous.”
In the picture, Cindal is wearing a pair of stretched out, puke green, sweat pants. The sweats appear to be smiling.