Attorneys for disgraced Theranos founder and possible cyborg Elizabeth Holmes — who, believe it or not, still hasn't gone to trial in her fraud case — won yet another delay in the court case because their client is pregnant, and her due date is right around when her trial was set to begin in July.
Lawyers revealed Holmes's pregnancy in a court filing last week, as CNBC first reported, saying that a trial date set for July 13, 2021 would not be feasible given her due date.
As CNBC now reports, Holmes appeared with her lawyers in a Zoom conference with Judge Edward Davila and Assistant U.S. Attorney Robert Leach on Wednesday, and Leach ruled in the defense's favor, saying the trial will now start August 31.
Leach said the prosecution was only informed of the pregnancy on March 2, and said "it’s frustrating and disappointing to learn about this now."
This is the fourth delay in Holmes's criminal trial, following procedural and pandemic-related delays over the last year and a half.
If we were being cynical, as some legal experts are being, we'd say it's impossible to separate the surprise pregnancy from the established tendency of judges and juries to be more lenient on women defendants, especially when they are mothers. Holmes otherwise could be facing 20 years in prison.
"Whether conscious or unconscious, judges, prosecutors, and jurors might worry about the effect of maternal incarceration on a newborn baby in a way that they don’t when the defendant is male,” said NBC news legal analyst Danny Cevallos, speaking to CNBC.
Holmes, 37, got married in June 2019 to hotel heir Billy Evans, who is nine years her junior. Earlier that year, she had been spotted around the Marina neighborhood in San Francisco with Evans and her dog Balto, just as a damning documentary about Holmes and Theranos was coming out on HBO. As one former colleague told reporter John Carreyrou, author of Bad Blood: Secrets and Lies of a Silicon Valley Startup, "One of Elizabeth’s superpowers is she never looks back."
Holmes founded Theranos when she was a 19-year-old Stanford dropout, and went on to court worldwide media attention for biotech startup that promised to revolutionize blood testing for various diseases and conditions. The promise of Theranos was that the company was developing new technology and a new machine that could conduct accurate tests based on a pin-prick amount of blood — something that many experts were skeptical about from the start.
In 2015, at age 31, Holmes's net worth was estimated to be $4.5 billion. A year later, as Theranos collapsed amid charges that its blood-testing tech had never worked and that Holmes and co-founder Sunny Balwani had defrauded investors, her net worth was dropped down to zero. Theranos would then officially close up shop in 2018, and the legal drama began against Holmes and Bulwani.
Also notable: Holmes's father is former Enron executive Christian Holmes.
Holmes's defense has already made clear that mental health will play a role in their strategy, and that they plan to present evidence "relating to a mental disease or defect or any other mental condition of the defendant bearing on... the issue of guilt." This revelation came after they tried six ways last fall to get the case thrown out of court, and Judge Davila rejected all six.
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