A federal jury in California convicted former Theranos president and chief operating officer Ramesh “Sunny” Balwani, the ex-boyfriend of the company’s founder Elizabeth Holmes, on all 12 counts accusing him of defrauding investors and patients.
In July 2018, a grand jury indicted Holmes and Balwani on allegations that they defrauded investors of millions with false claims that their start-up Theranos would revolutionize blood testing by using a few drops of blood in a so-called “nanotainer.”
Holmes founded the company in 2003, becoming what Forbes described as the youngest female self-made billionaire. Theranos once hit a $9 billion value before Wall Street Journal’s John Carreyrou investigated the company in a series of articles and the book Bad Blood: Secrets and Lies in a Silicon Valley Startup.
HBO later turned the tome into a documentary, sparking what Holmes’s attorneys described as a cascade of negative media coverage.
Holmes signaled before her trial that she would accuse Balwani of “intimate partner abuse.”
“Ms. Holmes may suffer a range of serious physical, psychological, and emotional effects, many of which would visibly affect Ms. Holmes’ demeanor in the courtroom and hinder her ability to participate in the trial proceedings or communicate with counsel,” her attorneys wrote in a motion before trial. “Ms. Holmes’ potentially debilitating PTSD symptoms would materially prejudice her ability to exercise fundamental trial rights, including her right to testify on her behalf, during the proceedings.
Such allegations prominently featured in Holmes’s reportedly tearful testimony in her defense, in which she accused him of psychological abuse and forced sex, according to CNBC. Police agencies told the network that they had no report under Holmes’s name.
Those accusations led to Holmes’s and Balwani’s cases being severed.
Earlier this year, Holmes was found guilty on four federal charges, and a jury deadlocked on three. The counts of her conviction, however, carried tremendous gravity. Three of those counts of wire fraud carried 20-year maximum sentences apiece, and one former federal prosecutor calculated the 38-year-old’s potential sentencing guidelines as effectively a life sentence.
Holmes remains on bail awaiting sentencing in September.
Unlike Holmes, Balwani reportedly did not testify in his defense. His attorney Jeffrey Coopersmith said that he is considering an appeal.
“We are obviously disappointed with the verdicts,” Coopersmith wrote in a statement to Law&Crime. “We plan to study and consider all of Mr. Balwani’s options including an appeal.”
According to CNN, Balwani betrayed little emotion as the verdict was read aloud, and he stared straight ahead at U.S. District Judge Edward Davila.
Balwani, who is 57 years old, faces a maximum 20-year sentence on each wire fraud count and conspiracy count. CNBC reported that he has been released on a $750,000 secured bond in advance of his sentencing on Nov. 15.
The U.S. Attorney’s office for the Northern District of California did not immediately respond to Law&Crime’s voicemail requesting comment. Prosecutors from that office did not release a statement by press time.
The jury reached a verdict on the fifth day of deliberations.
(Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)
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