new York It is a comparatively harsh sentence: the former founder of the US blood test start-up Theranos has to go to prison for more than eleven years. The district court in San Jose, California, ruled that sentence on Friday.
The sentence imposed is far closer to the 15-year sentence prosecutors were asking for than what Holmes’ attorneys had requested. They had applied for a maximum of 18 months in prison or house arrest, with reference to Holmes’ maternity, among other things.
In January, a jury found Holmes guilty of four counts of fraud and conspiracy. She saw the fraud against her investors as proven. The former Silicon Valley star had fooled the lenders into thinking that they could analyze up to 70 different blood values – from cholesterol to cancer indicators – with a single drop of blood. In fact, the technology never worked.
The sentence marks the end of a long-running trial that has gripped Silicon Valley and inspired books, documentaries and films about the Stanford University dropout.
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Holmes had appeared in court in a black dress and cloak and was clearly pregnant. When the sentence was announced, she hugged her parents. She had previously addressed the court in tears, apologizing to victims and investors and saying she took full responsibility for Theranos.
“I’m devastated by my failure,” said Holmes. “Looking back, there are so many things I would do differently if given the chance. I was trying to make my dream come true too quickly.”
Ex-partner has already been convicted
In July, ex-partner and former president of Theranos, Ramesh “Sunny” Balwani, was found guilty on all charges. He faces 20 years in prison. Theranos had promised to revolutionize the healthcare industry with cheap blood tests. In the meantime, the start-up was worth ten billion dollars.
According to the court, Holmes and Balwani had lied to investors and patients about the performance of the Theranos devices. Its own technology was highlighted as a leader between 2003 and 2015. In fact, important blood tests were not performed on Theranos’ own machines, but on Siemens machines.
As the issues came to light, Theranos collapsed following US regulatory intervention and shareholder lawsuits. Holmes was one of the few female founding personalities in Silicon Valley. Her prominence – Holmes was a guest in the White House, among other things – led to a great deal of public attention for the case.
Essential role of Balwani and Holmes
Holmes, now 38, acted as the public face of the company. According to the public prosecutor’s office, Balwani, now 57, also played an important role. Emails and text messages revealed that the two were linked both professionally and in a romantic relationship. The court had heard, among other things, a former laboratory manager, employees of a supervisory authority and patients.
Balwani had denied the allegations in his proceedings. His lawyers argued that prosecutors picked only a fraction of the blood tests: those with particularly bad results. Millions of other tests in a Theranos database that no longer exists have been ignored. It was alleged against Balwani that for a time he ran the company’s strictly closed laboratory.
In her trial, Holmes accused Balwani of sexually and psychologically abusing her. Prosecutors, on the other hand, had argued that Balwani and Holmes worked closely to maintain the fraud, which was uncovered by investigations by The Wall Street Journal. Among other things, they would have shielded important information from their own employees.
With agency material.
More: Jury finds Elizabeth Holmes guilty in Theranos trial.