After a federal judge last week denied Elizabeth Holmes a new trial, quashing a last-ditch — and highly aggressive — effort by her defense team to keep her out of prison longer, it all comes down to her sentence.
Most of you are probably long past being interested in the saga of Elizabeth Holmes, though she still hasn't actually gotten her due. And while it may be standard legal practice in white-collar cases to pull out all the stops to get a client off with a lenient sentence, there's been something egregious about the post-conviction activities of Holmes's defense team that make her earlier fraudulent behavior feel all the more ripe for punishment. And that punishment finally will come down on Friday, November 18.
The way Holmes's lawyers pounced on a misguided visit that former lab director Adam Rosendorff paid to Holmes's home over the summer — arguing that whatever anguish he was expressing about her fate amounted to a recanting of his testimony against her, which it was not, as he later made clear — felt more than a bit desperate. And it turned cruel when they tried to make hay over Rosendorff's documented mental health struggles.
Then, last week, with nothing left to do but beg for leniency in sentencing, they submitted a novel of a sentencing memo, with letters of support from over 130 friends, relatives, and former coworkers and investors. In it, they argued for no jail time at all — just 18 months home confinement. And the support letters sought to create sympathy for Holmes as a person — with husband Billy Evans confirming what had already been obvious in her last court appearance, that she is pregnant for a second time, and no that wasn't calculated at all.
In one of the letters, a friend and proprietor of Buck's, a Woodside restaurant that Holmes and Evans frequent, Tyler MacNiven (the same Tyler MacNiven who was once on The Amazing Race and who co-owns Woodhouse Fish Co. and West of Pecos in SF), wrote about the loss that "Liz" recently suffered when her beloved dog Balto was killed by a mountain lion. This was the same dog Holmes was seen walking around the Marina back in 2019.
"Liz and Billy loved that dog as though it were their first child, and his passing was a major blow during an already challenging time," MacNiven wrote, per the Mercury News. "Liz said Balto taught her what it meant to be free." Evans also confirmed that "it crushed her" when she ultimately found Balto's remains in the woods near their home.
Holmes faces 20-year maximum sentences for each of the four counts of fraud she was convicted of back in January — sentences that would likely be served concurrently. Most legal experts expect the judge to deliver a multi-year sentence that is much lower than 20 years, and the fact that she has a 16-month-old son and another child on the way may figure into his decision.
In their own sentencing memo filed today, prosecutors are pushing for 15 years behind bars plus an $804 million fine. As the Mercury News reports, the memo from the prosecution is "blistering" and makes no qualms about putting Holmes in prison until her children are in their teens.
The federal prosecutors say that Holmes's crimes are "extraordinarily serious, [and] among the most substantial white collar offenses Silicon Valley or any other district has seen." And while Holmes may never have cashed out her Theranos shares, which at one point would have made her a billionaire four times over, she still enjoyed a lavish lifestyle, private jet, and extraordinary media attention during the height of her fraud. Holmes "repeatedly chose lies, hype, and the prospect of billions of dollars over patient safety and fair dealing with investors," the prosecutors said.
While Holmes was not convicted of the counts against her that related to defrauding patients, prosecutors argue that there were nonetheless harms done to patients thanks to false results from Theranos's Edison blood-testing machine. "Women received wrong tests about their pregnancies, Theranos generated wrong results for cancer tests, and one victim was led to believe she had the virus that causes AIDS," prosectors said.
Judge Edward Davila will no doubt be considering whether Holmes's codefendant and former boyfriend, Sunny Balwani, deserves more or less of the blame — and his sentencing is still pending after he was convicted in July on 12 counts of fraud.
Will Balwani serve more time because he has no children to raise?
Will either of them end up ever paying restitution to investors?
Holmes has said that she is broke and can't afford to pay back investors. But she is living in a pretty expensive place — Woodside — and her husband is reportedly heir to a small hotel fortune. But they likely have a prenup.
Top image: Former Theranos CEO Elizabeth Holmes goes through a security checkpoint as she arrives at federal court on September 01, 2022 in San Jose, California. Holmes appeared in federal court related to an attempt to overturn her fraud conviction. She is facing jail time after being convicted of four counts of fraud for allegedly engaging in a multimillion-dollar scheme to defraud investors in her company Theranos, which offered blood testing lab services. (Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)