Prosecutors subpoenaed an internal Theranos database they say proved executives knew their blood test product was a sham. That database was promptly destroyed, according to a new court filing.
Those of us who love to slow down and gawk at the car wreck known as the Elizabeth Holmes-Theranos scandal have not heard much of Holmes’ deepfake voice lately. You may recall that in October, her attorneys filed six motions to have all her charges dismissed, and all six were laughed out of court. Her trial was recently delayed until July 2021 because of the COVID, but Holmes’ attorneys (who must realize they are never going to get paid?) and federal prosecutors are in that pre-trial phase where they are submitting filings to US District Court judge Edward Davila arguing over what should and should not be considered as evidence in that upcoming trial. On Friday, 23 filings were submitted by both sides.
On Holmes’ defense end, her attorneys argued that damning text messages and emails should not be considered, according to the New York Post. (These include Theranos’ lab director saying “I am feeling pressured to vouch for results that I cannot be confident in.” He was quickly fired and replaced with alleged co-conspirator “Sunny” Balwani’s personal dermatologist, who had no lab background, and rarely showed up for work.) In another filing reported by CNBC, her attorneys went with the “But everybody does it!” defense, arguing that “other Silicon Valley start-ups used similar practices” of exaggerating promises to attract investor capital and positive media attention.
But prosecutors submitted another filing Monday detailing some pretty bad alleged destruction of evidence once Team Theranos knew the gig was up. Tech site The Register reports that Holmes and company allegedly destroyed a SQL database that the feds had requested, and would have supposedly showed that Theranos’ quick-prick blood test was total quack science. “Theranos’s TT3 blood test results were so inaccurate, it was essentially a coin toss whether the patient was getting the right result,” prosecutors said in their filing. “The data was devastating.”
And the data disappeared, shortly after being subpoenaed, according to the feds. “On or about August 31, 2018—three months after a federal grand jury issued a subpoena requesting a working copy of this database—the LIS [Laboratory Information System] was destroyed,” prosecutors charge. “The government has never been provided with the complete records contained in the LIS, nor been given the tools, which were available within the database, to search for such critical evidence as all Theranos blood tests with validation errors.”
The filing goes on to describe a number of ways the alleged database destruction was completely intentional, all of which are consistent with this particular Silicon Valley tragicomedy. But there is a heartbreaking aspect to this. We do, very justifiably, see the Theranos scandal as a source of amusement and Bay to Breakers costumes that will ultimately make a great movie.
But this court filing details some genuine human heartbreak, anxiety, and medical risks for patients: One patient got a bogus Theranos test saying she had miscarried, when she had not. Another woman got a test that said she was not pregnant, when she actually was. Another patient got a Theranos test that said her breast cancer had returned, when it had not. And the trauma aside, these people paid real money for these tests. It’s funny when wealthy investors get jobbed under the spell of a wacky-eyed hot blonde woman. But not so much when the victims are everyday people with real medical issues.