SAN FRANCISCO — The criminal trial of ex-Theranos CEO Elizabeth Holmes has been scheduled to start in summer 2020 — setting the stage for a blockbuster courtroom drama certain to command attention far beyond Silicon Valley.

In a pretrial hearing in federal court in San Jose, Calif., on Friday, federal prosecutors and defense attorneys agreed to begin jury selection the week of July 28, 2020, and start opening arguments on Aug. 4, 2020, a spokesperson for the U.S. Attorney’s Office confirmed. The trial is expected to last for about three months.

Holmes and her former No. 2 Sunny Balwani are accused of defrauding investors, patients, and doctors in a blood-testing scandal that brought down health care’s richest venture-backed startup and a parable for the dangers of medical hype and hubris. The saga has gone mainstream in a way that few industry controversies do, becoming the subject of a book, a podcast, and competing documentaries.

advertisement

Holmes and Balwani have been charged with two counts of conspiracy to commit wire fraud and nine counts of wire fraud. They have each pleaded not guilty, and face a maximum of 20 years in prison and up to $2.7 million in fines. That figure doesn’t include any cash the government could demand as restitution for the alleged fraud.

The court date next year marks something of a compromise between the two sides. Prosecutors had indicated a preference for a trial in the first half of next year, while attorneys for Holmes and Balwani had said they needed more time to prepare for a complex case involving countless pages of documentation.

Speculation has abounded over what kind of defense Holmes and Balwani might mount. They could blame each other — and the intrigue would be heightened by the fact that they were previously in a romantic relationship, at a time when they ran the now defunct company together and made the decisions for which they’re now facing criminal charges.

According to prosecutors, Holmes and Balwani spent years lying about the capabilities of their blood-testing technology and the state of their business while making grand projections with no basis in reality.

Another possible defense could involve putting the government on trial, by arguing that federal regulators improperly took action against the company. Central to that potential case is the reporting of John Carreyrou, the Wall Street Journal journalist who broke the story of wrongdoing at Theranos and whose reporting spurred a series of regulatory investigations. In an apparent effort to bolster that defense, Holmes’s lawyers have sought records documenting Carreyrou’s communications with the Food and Drug Administration and the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services.

The presiding judge at Friday’s hearing was Edward Davila, who often hears cases related to intellectual property and technology.

Leave a Comment

Please enter your name.
Please enter a comment.

  • Theranos was the con of the century. Because the company was private, no one had access to the proprietary information. $700 million up in smoke.

  • Nothing will happen to her…Probably a fine and an ankle bracelet for 6 months…Meanwhile, she has tens of millions parked off shore to resume her awesome lifestyle, and sell her story, write her book, and go on a lucrative speaking tour…Only in America…

  • It seems that now there is no self responsibility. If a company goes under and investors lose their money it is open fire on the leaders of said company as they must be frauds. Well sometimes things go bad an people fail. It is investing for a reason. It is not sure thing. If you lose then you lose . Eat it and move on. It is becoming a joke in this country that we need to blame someone for everything and we vilify anyone with an original idea. Elon Musk gets treated like a criminal when he should be seen as the net Edison but we make it so that nobody will ever want to try to go out of the box and succeed now.

    • Con-men/women rely on the fact that a sucker is born every minute. Ask the president.

      She sold a product/technology that never existed. That, in the world of the rules of law, and common sense, it’s called fraud

    • You obviously have not followed the fact base reporting. Idealism vs reality. It’s a common moniker with some start ups of “fake it until you make it” but Elizabeth and Sunny over played this adage to their detriment!

A roundup of STAT’s top stories of the day in science and medicine

Privacy Policy