SAN JOSE, Calif. – For the past 11 weeks, prosecutors have exposed emails from desperate investors. They held forged documents side by side with the originals. They called dozens of witnesses alleging fraud and excuse.
And on Friday, after questioning their 29th witness, prosecutors ended their arguments against it Elizabeth Holmes, the founder of the failed blood tests startup Theranos. Mrs. Holmes has pleaded not guilty 11 cases of fraudulent investors on Theranos’ technology and business, in a case billed as a referendum on Silicon Valley’s startup culture.
The prosecution’s suspension of the charges marks a major turning point in the trial of Ms. Holmes, whose rise and fall has riveted the public and symbolized the Technology industry hubris and the last few decades Culture of guilt.
For weeks, prosecutors tried to portray Ms. Holmes, 37, as a liar who built Theranos into a $ 9 billion startup, all the while knowing that the company’s revolutionary blood tests were not working. Prosecutors methodically outlined six main areas of Ms. Holmes ‘deception, including lies about Theranos’ work with military and pharmaceutical companies, his business performance, and the accuracy of his blood tests.
Her lawyers are now expected to argue that Theranos was merely a failure and not a cheat, which begs the question of whether Ms. Holmes will take a stand in her own defense. On the file, her lawyers stated that she will likely testify.
The process is at stake. If Ms. Holmes is convicted, she faces up to 20 years in jail for fraud, and prosecutors could be encouraged to pursue more startups that expand the truth to raise funds. An acquittal could signal that Silicon Valley startups, which have exploded in power and wealth over the past decade, are difficult to hold accountable for.
“When the prosecutors leave their case, they basically say they have enough to ask the jury to convict the accused immediately,” said Andrey Spektor, attorney with Bryan Cave Leighton Paisner and former federal attorney in New York’s Eastern District . He said he expected the defense to bring a case instead of simply letting the jury decide whether prosecutors failed to produce their evidence.
Ms. Holmes, a dropout from Stanford University, who founded Theranos in 2003 and raised $ 945 million from investors, was charged with fraud in 2018. Her case has been plagued by delays for years: first about the trial, then the pandemic, and finally Ms. Holmes. Holmes gives birth to a baby in August.
If that The trial finally started in SeptemberProsecutors called former investors, partners and Theranos employees to testify. Jim Mattis, the retired four-star Marine Corps general and former Secretary of Defense who was a Theranos director, commented, as did a former Theranos laboratory director who endured six grueling days of questioning. In a surreal moment, a forensic scientist was reciting text messages between Ms. Holmes and her then friend and business partner at Theranos, Ramesh Balwani, known as Sunny.
This week Alan Eisenman, an early investor in Theranos, testified that Ms. Holmes stopped and threatened him when he asked for more information about the company. But even after this treatment, Mr. Eisenman poured more money into the start-up believing that his apparently fast-growing business would bring wealth to financiers like him.
When asked about his understanding of the value of his Theranos stock today, Mr. Eisenman said, “That’s not an understanding, it’s a conclusion. It’s worth zero. “
Among the most convincing pieces of evidence from the prosecution was a series of validation reports Ms. Holmes sent out to potential investors and partners who appeared to have drug companies like Pfizer and Schering-Plow endorsing Theranos’ technology. Representatives from each company said they did not endorse Theranos ‘blood test and were surprised to find their companies’ logos added to the report.
Daniel Edlin, who worked at Theranos and was a fraternity of Mrs. Holmes’ brother Christian, testified that the start-up was faking machine demonstrations for potential investors, hiding technology flaws, and throwing out abnormal blood test results.
Mr. Mattis testified that he was not aware of any contracts between Theranos and the military to install his machines on Medevac helicopters or on the battlefield, as Ms. Holmes had often told investors.
The prosecutor also closed her case Testimony from Roger Parloff, the journalist who wrote a cover story about Ms. Holmes that helped her to praise. Mr. Parloff’s article was sent to numerous investors as part of Ms. Holmes’ pitch.
In the courtroom, however, some of the most prominent witnesses were missing from the prosecutor’s list. Ms. Holmes’ rise was aided by her association with business giants like media mogul Rupert Murdoch, senior statesmen like Henry Kissinger and Admiral Gary Roughead, and lawyer David Boies. Theranos has been felled in part by whistleblowers like Tyler Shultz, grandson of George Shultz, the former Secretary of State who served on Theranos’ board of directors. None of them testified.
Also absent was Mr Balwani, who was charged with fraud along with Ms Holmes and will be on trial next year. His role as a fiery defender of Theranos, prosecuting anyone who questioned the company, has been at the background of many testimonies.
Almost at every turn, Ms. Holmes’ lawyers tried to narrow down testimony and evidence. They attacked investor credibility and used legal clues to show that investors knew they were betting on a young startup. The lawyers also drilled holes in investors ‘limited due diligence regarding Theranos’ claims. At one point, they directed Erika Cheung, a key whistleblower who worked in Theranos’ lab, to read the entire org chart of the staff working in the lab to show that she played a small role in the overall operation.
The defense successfully argued to drop charges of fraud against Ms. Holmes. A patient who received a suspicious test from Theranos was disqualified from testifying earlier this month.
Ms. Holmes’ attorneys will likely seek to highlight her relationship with Mr. Balwani. The two have secretly agreed to meet. In court records, Ms. Holmes claimed he was emotionally abusive and controlling. Mr. Balwani’s lawyers have denied the allegations.
Ms. Holmes’ testimony is likely to revive the media circus around the early days of the trial, which waned over the weeks of testimony. It would also open them up to potentially harmful prosecution cross-examination or perjury.
“Most criminal defendants do not testify, especially in economic cases where the government has many challenges to face, such as proving intent and sometimes even proving that a crime has taken place,” Spektor said. Ms. Holmes’ case was different, he said, because the crime was clear and the evidence was fairly easy to understand.
Throughout the entire trial, Ms. Holmes was quiet in the courtroom, only whispering to her lawyers or family members. But the jury heard how they vigorously defended Theranos against allegations of fraud in court video interviews. They also heard her accept the guilt.
“I am the founder and CEO of this company” she said in one of the videos. “Everything that happens in this company is my responsibility.”