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Federal Judge Sentences Elizabeth Holmes to More Than a Decade in Prison for Theranos Investment Fraud

a screenshot from a video of Elizabeth Holmes speaking

Theranos founder Elizabeth Holmes (screenshot via CBS 60 Minutes)

A federal judge on Friday sentenced Theranos founder Elizabeth Holmes to 11 years in federal prison in a four-hour hearing that included Holmes’ tearfully apologizing and saying she “gave everything I had to build our company.”

While prosecutors had asked for 15 years, Holmes’ attorneys asked for home confinement or a minimal term of 18 months in prison, but U.S. District Judge Edward J. Davila sentenced Holmes to 11 years, remarking upon the defendant’s possible “intoxication with fame,” according to Law360 reporter Dorothy Atkins.

Davila ordered Holmes to report to prison on April 27.

A federal jury in San Jose convicted Holmes of three counts of wire fraud and one count of conspiracy to commit wire fraud on Jan. 3, following a trial that drew a huge crowd of journalists and onlookers to the courthouse every day. Holmes’ attorneys submitted at least 130 supportive letters from her family and friends, including Sen. Cory Booker (D-N.J.), who wrote that he’s advocating “for a fair and just sentence” in the same spirit he’s brought to his work to reform prisons and federal sentencing laws.

The international attention stemmed from the Hollywood-style intrigue that cloaked Holmes since she became a national media darling for her work with Theranos, a blood-testing startup company that she touted as a scientific revolution.  A Stanford University dropout, Holmes founded the company at age 19, but federal prosecutors said she and her ex-boyfriend, Ramesh “Sunny” Balwani, who was Theranos’ chief operating officer, went on to defraud investors of millions of dollars with false claims about the company’s capabilities.

Before she was indicted in June 2018, Holmes persuaded influential people such as media mogul Rupert Murdoch and Oracle founder Larry Ellison to invest in Theranos. She also won over some of the U.S’s wealthiest families, including the Waltons of the Walmart empire.

Theranos’ board of directors included former U.S. Secretary of State Henry Kissinger and James “Mad Dog” Mattis, the retired four-star Marine Corps general and former defense secretary, as well as famed trial lawyer David Boies, who also represented Holmes and Theranos during the fraudulent fundraising.

A separate jury on July 7 convicted Balwani, whom Holmes has accused of abuse, of two counts of conspiracy and ten counts of wire fraud. He’s to be sentenced Dec. 7.

[Image: screenshot via CBS 60 Minutes]

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A graduate of the University of Oregon, Meghann worked at The Spokesman-Review in Spokane, Washington, and the Idaho Statesman in Boise, Idaho, before moving to California in 2013 to work at the Orange County Register. She spent four years as a litigation reporter for the Los Angeles Daily Journal and one year as a California-based editor and reporter for and associated publications such as The National Law Journal and New York Law Journal before joining Law & Crime News. Meghann has written for The Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, The New York Times, Los Angeles Magazine, Bloomberg Law, ABA Journal, The Forward, Los Angeles Business Journal and the Laguna Beach Independent. Her Twitter coverage of federal court hearings in a lawsuit over homelessness in Los Angeles placed 1st in the Los Angeles Press Club's Southern California Journalism Awards for Best Use of Social Media by an Independent Journalist in 2021. An article she freelanced for Los Angeles Times Community News about a debate among federal judges regarding the safety of jury trials during COVID also placed 1st in the Orange County Press Club Awards for Best Pandemic News Story in 2021.