COVID-19 pandemic delays Theranos founder Elizabeth Holmes’ fraud trial
The long-anticipated criminal fraud trial of Theranos founder Elizabeth Holmes will likely get delayed until early next year — and she has the coronavirus to thank.
The disgraced former Silicon Valley wunderkind — whose $9 billion tech startup imploded after it was revealed the company was peddling bogus blood tests — was scheduled to appear before a jury in October.
That date got postponed on Monday, however, by US District Judge Edward Davila after her lawyers argued that going to court during the pandemic would be dangerous.
“We think a trial anytime soon is just not realistic, it’s just not safe,” Holmes’ attorney argued on a Monday Zoom call, according to CNBC. “If we’re forced to do it, we will do it, but it endangers people and we prefer not to.”
A witness list disclosed by prosecutors includes 170 individuals across 15 different states, including many that are COVID-19 hotspots, and 16 witnesses are over the age of 65, according to the cable news network.
Prosecutors for the Justice Department countered that time is of the essence, and that the government is “ready to go.”
“It’s important to this case that it goes expeditiously,” Assistant US Attorney Robert Leach said. “The fraud here is in the hundreds of millions of dollars.”
A new date will be determined next month, “guided by the cloud of Covid,” with the safety of the trial’s participants in mind, Davila said.
The trial has the potential to be a high-profile affair with plenty of star power on the witness stand, including former Secretary of State Henry Kissinger and former Defense Secretary James Mattis, both of whom were board members, according to court filings.
Holmes and ex-Theranos president Ramesh “Sunny” Balwani are accused of offering blood tests with devices that they promoted as revolutionary but knew were unreliable and inaccurate.
They also got money from investors and promoted their business based on bogus claims, prosecutors have alleged.
The duo each faces a maximum of 20 years in prison as well as a $250,000 fine on 11 counts of wire fraud and conspiracy.
In addition to facing a criminal case, Holmes agreed to pay $500,000 in a settlement with the Securities and Exchange Commission, which accused her and Balwani of bilking investors out of more than $700 million. Holmes did not admit or deny the allegations and Balwani pledged to fight the charges.
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