Theranos founder Elizabeth Holmes to stand trial in 2020

Elizabeth Holmes, the founder of the now-defunct biotech unicorn Theranos, will face trial in federal court next summer with penalties of up to 20 years in prison and millions of dollars in fines.

Jury selection will begin July 28, 2020, according to U.S. District Judge Edward J. Davila, who announced the trial will commence in August 2020 in a San Jose federal court Friday morning.

Holmes and former Theranos president Ramesh “Sunny” Balwani were indicted by a grand jury last June with 11 criminal charges in total. Two of those charges were conspiracy to commit wire fraud (against investors, and against doctors and patients). The remaining nine are actual wire fraud, with amounts ranging from the cost of a lab test to $100 million.

According to Bloomberg, Holmes’ legal team plans to argue that The Wall Street Journal’s John Carreyrou “had an undue influence on federal regulators,” and “went beyond reporting the Theranos story.”

“The jury should be aware that an outside actor, eager to break a story, and portray the story as a work of investigative journalism, was exerting influence on the regulatory process in a way that appears to have warped the agencies’ focus on the company and possibly biased the agencies’ findings against it,” her attorneys wrote, per Bloomberg. “The agencies’ interactions with Carreyrou thus go to the heart of the government’s case.”

Theranos, founded in 2003 by then 19-year-old Stanford dropout Holmes, raised more than $700 million from private market investors in what’s been referred to by the Securities and Exchange Commission as an “elaborate, years-long fraud in which they exaggerated or made false statements about the company’s technology, business, and financial performance.”

Theranos first came under scrutiny in October 2015, when Carreyrou published his first of many investigative pieces questioning the efficacy of Theranos’ blood-testing technology. At the time, Theranos was one of the most buzzworthy companies in Silicon Valley, boasting a valuation of $9 billion and the support of high-profile investors like Tim Draper via venture capital firm Draper Fisher Jurvetson and Robert Murdoch.

Theranos, as a result of Carreyrou’s reporting, was discovered to be a threat to public health and its technology, as it turns out, was light years away from its claims to quickly process an expansive range of laboratory tests from just a few drops of blood.

According to The Wall Street Journal, federal prosecutors have collected more than 2 million pages of evidence for the defense teams. Holmes, despite ample evidence, has maintained her innocence since the grand jury indictment last year.

Holmes stepped down from Theranos last year following the criminal charges. The company finally ceased operations in September after failing to salvage anything from the wreckage. Carreyrou, for his part, released a best-selling book, ‘Bad Blood,’ documenting Theranos’s secrets and lies. A documentary chronicling Holmes’ and Theranos’ rapid rise and fall was released by HBO in 2019. A Hollywood production starring Jennifer Lawrence as Elizabeth Holmes is reportedly in the works.

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