The Feds made their final push to put Elizabeth Holmes behind bars on Thursday, telling jurors that the “criminal” founder of Theranos was guilty of perpetrating a massive fraud.
“She chose fraud over business failure,” federal prosecutor Jeff Schenk told the jury. “She chose to be dishonest. This choice was not only callous; it was criminal.”
The 37-year-old Theranos founder, who gave birth to a baby boy in July, is facing a whopping 11 fraud and conspiracy charges that could result in a 20-year prison sentence. She’s accused of lying to patients and investors about Theranos’ blood testing technology.
Holmes’ attorneys have countered by accusing prosecutors of misrepresenting evidence and claiming that Holmes had been abused and controlled by Ramesh “Sonny” Balwani, her ex-boyfriend and the company’s former chief operating officer.
“Elizabeth Holmes was building a business and not a criminal enterprise,” Kevin Downey, an attorney for Holmes, said as he began his closing argument.
Final statements are expected to wrap up on Friday, with jurors meeting to decide Holmes’ face early next week.
Holmes herself took the stand last week to testify that an abusive Balwani manipulated her in both the bedroom and boardroom — and that he’s the one who should actually face blame for the implosion of Theranos.
“He would force me to have sex with him when I didn’t want to because he would say that he wanted me to know he still loved me,” a sobbing Holmes told jurors. “He told me that I didn’t know what I was doing in business, that my convictions were wrong, that he was astonished at my mediocrity and if I followed my instincts, I was going to fail.”
Balwani, who is set to face the same charges as Holmes in a separate trial next year, has denied Holmes’ accusations.
While Schenk urged jurors to put Holmes behind bars, the Theranos founder peered at both the prosecutor and the jurors from across a packed courtroom in San Jose, California. A few feet behind her, Holmes’ parents and and her current partner, Billy Evans, sat in the front row listening intently.
Thursday’s federal court hearing in San Jose marked the beginning of the end of a three month-long trial that has included testimony from dozens of witnesses.
The jury — which is made up of 10 men and four women, including two alternates — will be allowed to deliberate through the holidays, if necessary. Jurors must agree unanimously to convict or acquit Holmes on each count.
Before a 2015 Wall Street Journal exposé led to the company’s implosion, Theranos promised to revolutionize health care with a more humane, convenient and cheaper way to test blood. It raised nearly a billion dollars from investors.
Instead of relying on vials of blood drawn from veins, Theranos touted technology that Holmes said would be able to scan for hundreds of diseases and other potential problems with a few drops of blood taken via a finger prick.
But the company’s blood-testing technology was secretly flawed, often producing inaccurate results that could have endangered the lives of patients who took the tests at Walgreens stores.
Government prosecutors have painted Holmes as a charlatan who duped investors, business partners and patients in pursuit of fame and fortune while positioning herself as a visionary similar to her hero Steve Jobs, the co-founder of Apple. Holmes’ lawyers have depicted her as a trailblazer who took a few wrong turns while running Theranos, but never committed any crimes.
With Post wires