A federal judge has deemed the actions of former Theranos President and COO Ramesh "Sunny" Balwani to be a little bit more egregious than his partner in fraud Elizabeth Holmes — two years' worse, to be exact.
Balwani was sentenced Wednesday to 13 years in federal prison, two more years than Holmes was sentenced to last month. And in part this is because Balwani, unlike Holmes, was convicted by a jury on all 12 counts he was charged with — while Holmes was only convicted of four, and acquitted of charges relating to the defrauding of Theranos patients.
Balwani's report date to federal prison has been set for March 15.
As NBC reporter Scott Budman reported from the courtroom, Judge Edward Davila wasn't really having the defense's arguments that Balwani was never in charge at Theranos, and it was all Holmes's game — her attorneys, obviously, argued the opposite. Davila reportedly said in court today, "Your client (Balwani) hired HIS DERMATOLOGIST to run the lab at Theranos," per Budman, suggesting that Balwani had carte blanche at the company.
Unlike Holmes, who tearily spoke in her own defense at her November 18 sentencing hearing, Balwani opted not to speak in court on Wednesday. Also unlike at Holmes's sentencing, no victims spoke today.
And his fate was largely already decided — it's the same judge that sentenced Elizabeth Holmes to over a decade in prison, despite her having an infant son and a second child on the way, and he was not likely to go more leniently on Balwani.
Balwani's lawyers had tried to argue that the two Theranos leaders had different stakes in the game, and that Balwani had invested $5 million of his own money and was only worth a fraction of what Holmes was worth, on paper, at the height of Theranos's perceived success.
But all of that fell on deaf ears — and Balwani was found guilty back in July, so it was not the time to shift blame.
Per Budman, outside the courtroom, Balwani's attorney Duncan Levin said, "I don’t regret taking this case. I believe Sunny is a good person."
Jeffrey Schenk, an assistant U.S. attorney and lead prosecutor in the case, said in court Wednesday, per the New York Times, "Mr. Balwani had significant autonomy in running the [Theranos] lab. He made decisions that directly impacted the information that was communicated to patients." And, Schenk noted that the lab was the source of "some of the greatest harm" in this case.
Holmes's attorneys have already, predictably, indicated their intention to appeal, and experts have suggested that this process is likely to help delay Holmes's first day in prison by months or more. As the Times reports, in a new filing, Holmes's attorneys have used prosecutors differing characterizations of her relationship with Balwani against them, saying that in her trial they were portrayed as equals, while in his trial he was portrayed as more of the mature businessman in control.
Top image: Former Theranos COO Ramesh "Sunny" Balwani and his legal team leave the Robert F. Peckham Federal Building on July 7, 2022 in San Jose, California. Balwani was found guilty on 12 counts of conspiracy and fraud for allegedly engaging in a multimillion-dollar scheme to defraud investors with Theranos blood testing lab services. Former Theranos CEO Elizabeth Holmes was was found guilty of four counts of defrauding investors in January and is awaiting sentencing. (Photo by David Odisho/Getty Images)