Former Theranos CEO Elizabeth Holmes was convicted on four counts of fraud and conspiracy Monday, ending a lengthy trial that has captivated Silicon Valley.
The former entrepreneur remained seated and expressed no emotion as the verdicts were read. Her partner, Billy Evans, showed agitation in earlier moments but appeared calm during the verdict reading.
After the judge left the courtroom to meet with jurors individually, Holmes got up to hug Evans and her parents before leaving with her lawyers. She did not respond to questions about the verdicts lobbed at her during a walk from the courthouse to the nearby hotel where she has stayed during jury deliberations.
Holmes was to remain free on bond while awaiting sentencing, which will be determined by the judge.
In a written statement, U.S. Attorney Stephanie Hinds thanked the jury for navigating the case through the pandemic and said Holmes must now be held “culpable” for her crimes. Hinds did not mention the jury’s decision to acquit Holmes on the four counts involving patient fraud.
Faces up to 20 years for each guilty count
A once-celebrated entrepreneur, Holmes was accused of duping investors and patients about a flawed blood-testing technology that she hailed as a medical breakthrough.
She was found guilty on two counts of wire fraud and two counts of conspiracy to commit fraud on Monday after seven days of deliberation, acquitted on three counts of defrauding patients who paid for tests from Theranos, and on a related conspiracy charge. The jury deadlocked on the three remaining charges.
WATCH | Holmes under cross-examination:
She now faces up to 20 years in prison for each guilty count, although legal experts say she is unlikely to receive anything close to the maximum sentence.
Federal prosecutors spent much of the trial providing testimony and evidence to depict Holmes as a charlatan obsessed with fame and fortune. In seven days on the witness stand, Holmes cast herself as a visionary trailblazer in male-dominated Silicon Valley who was emotionally and sexually abused by her former lover and business partner, Sunny Balwani.
After starting Theranos in 2003 as a 19-year-old college dropout, Holmes began working on a technology that she repeatedly promised would be able to scan for hundreds of health issues with just a few drops of blood taken with a finger prick. Conventional methods require a needle inserted into a person’s vein to draw a vial of blood for each test, which must then be carried out at large laboratories.
Compelling concept — which failed
Holmes said she believed she could provide more humane, convenient and cheaper blood tests with “mini-labs” in Walgreens and Safeway stores across the U.S., using a small testing device dubbed “Edison” in homage to the famous inventor.
The concept proved to be compelling. Theranos raised more than $900 million US from a long list of elite investors, including savvy billionaires such as media mogul Rupert Murdoch and software magnate Larry Ellison.
But most people didn’t know that the Theranos blood-testing technology kept producing misleading results that led the company to secretly rely on conventional blood testing. Evidence presented at the trial also showed Holmes lied about purported deals that Theranos had reached with big drug companies, such as Pfizer, and with the U.S. military.
In 2015, a series of explosive articles in The Wall Street Journal and a regulatory audit of Theranos’ lab uncovered potentially dangerous flaws in the company’s technology, leading to the company’s eventual collapse.
During her testimony, Holmes occasionally expressed contrition for her handling of a variety of issues, but often contended that she’d forgotten the circumstance surrounding some of the key events spotlighted by the prosecution. She insisted she never stopped believing that Theranos was on the verge of refining its technology.
Instead, she heaped blame on Balwani, who she secretly lived with while he was Theranos’ chief operating officer from 2009 to 2016. Holmes testified that Balwani let her down by failing to fix the laboratory problems that he had promised to fix and, in the most dramatic testimony of the trial, alleged he had turned her into his pawn through a long-running pattern of abuse while exerting control over her diet, sleeping habits and friendships.
This all occurred, she said, after being raped by an unnamed assailant while she was still enrolled at Stanford.