Earlier in March, counsel for embattled Theranos founder Elizabeth Holmes announced their client is pregnant, spelling all but certain delay for her highly anticipated fraud trial. A federal judge made that postponement official on Wednesday, setting a new trial date agreed upon by prosecutors and defense attorneys: Aug. 31 this year.
“We of course wish Ms. Holmes the best wishes and we wish her event to be a happy one and a healthy one,” Judge Edward J. Davila, from the Northern District of California, remarked during a Zoom conference on Wednesday morning.
The mood at the U.S. Attorney’s office was not as festive about the announcement.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Robert Leach complained about learning belatedly that she would be giving birth in July.
“It’s frustrating, disappointing to learn about this now,” Leach said.
Rapidly approaching its third year, the Holmes trial over the spectacular fall of her multibillion-dollar start-up Theranos has been delayed multiple times considering the COVID-19 pandemic, which the judge expressed hope would be in the court’s “rear-view mirror” soon.
“I want to secure as firm a date as possible to start the trial,” the judge said at the hearing, pressing the parties on whether the latest postponement would be firm.
Williams & Connolly attorney Kevin Downey, who is representing Holmes, said he did not anticipate one.
“From the defense’s perspective, we want a trial date,” Downey said. “Ms. Holmes is eager to contest the charges.”
“Any difficulties that arose would be of a medical nature that we can’t anticipate right now,” he added.
In July 2018, a grand jury indicted Holmes and her former chief operating officer Ramesh “Sunny” Balwani on 11 counts alleging that they defrauded investors of millions with false claims that their start-up Theranos would revolutionize blood testing using a few drops of blood in a so-called “nanotainer.”
Since founding the company in 2003, Holmes became what Forbes called the youngest female self-made billionaire and her company once valued $9 billion before it all came crashing down with an exposé by Wall Street Journal’s John Carreyrou: “Bad Blood: Secrets and Lies in a Silicon Valley Startup.”
Federal prosecutors charged Holmes and Balwani on the year of that book’s publication, alleging a vast scheme to hide the deficient performance of the product from investors, doctors and patients.
Holmes and Balwani lied about the company’s financial health, their partnership with Walgreens, the importance of Food and Drug Administration approval and more, prosecutors say.
“Despite representing to doctors and patients that Theranos could provide accurate, fast, 24 reliable, and cheap blood tests and test results, Holmes and Balwani knew that Theranos’s technology was, in fact, not capable of consistently producing accurate and reliable results,” their indictment states.
Balwani was not present during the hearing, though Holmes herself appeared in the Zoom conference. The Theranos CEO’s next hearing is scheduled for May 4, where the judge will consider motions about what evidence may and may not be heard at Holmes’s upcoming trial.
(Glenn Chapman/AFP via Getty Images)
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