Elizabeth Holmes has just been found guilty of criminal fraud after she built blood testing startup Theranos into a $9 billion company only to collapse in a scandal, Bloomberg reported.
The jury in the San Jose, California court, reached its verdict after three months of hearing harshly contested testimony from Holmes himself. Unless the decision is overturned on appeal, the 37-year-old former CEO and mother will face up to 20 years in prison.
Holmes remained completely silent and upright as the sentence was read. She looked directly at the jury as they were polled by the judge to determine if the verdict matched their conclusion.
Holmes’ fall from executive, celebrity to felon, marks one of the most dramatic incidents in Silicon Valley history. After deliberating for seven days, the jury on Monday agreed with prosecutors that Holmes had lied to patients and investors for years about the accuracy and capabilities of the Theranos blood analyzer. Holmes was found guilty of four of the 11 counts.
As for the witnesses, they said they were heavily deceived by a businessman who dropped out of Stanford University. “Them” here includes executives at Walgreens and Safeway Inc. to James Mattis, the former US Secretary of Defense, who once sat on the board of Theranos, as well as an advisor to investors who poured hundreds of millions of dollars into the company.
During seven days of court arguments, Holmes alternated between blaming, not remembering certain events and taking responsibility for mistakes, even while insisting she had no intention of deceiving anyone.
The most horrifying moment in the courtroom was when Holmes testified that she was raped as a student at Stanford University and endured years of sexual and verbal abuse from her ex-boyfriend, former President Theranos Ramesh “Sunny” Balwani.
According to Holmes, the abuse during her decades-long relationship with Balwani had a profound effect on her life. However, a prosecutor told the jury at the conclusion of the argument that the abusive conduct the defendant referred to was not related to the fraud for which Holmes was charged.
Holmes’ team tried to convince the jury that she had made a sincere effort for more than 15 years to steer Theranos to success and didn’t deserve to be punished for not achieving her dreams.
“Elizabeth Holmes is building a business, not a criminal enterprise,” said attorney Kevin Downey.
Holmes became known for her promise of a revolution in healthcare, based on her claims that compact Theranos devices could perform hundreds of diagnostic tests faster, more accurately and cheaper than larger traditional testers.
It is also worth noting that Theranos analyzers can give results with just a small amount of blood injected instead of a whole vial of blood drawn. Holmes cites her own fear of needles as the inspiration for this invention.
In 2015, Holmes was voted by Forbes as the youngest self-made female billionaire and honored on the covers of magazines. But that same year, the Wall Street Journal published stories pointing to flaws in Theranos’ technology, prompting regulators the following year to conclude that the machine posed a danger to patient health.
The disclosures have prompted civil lawsuits, including a lawsuit against Holmes settled with the Securities and Exchange Commission, as well as an investigation and prosecution by the Department of Justice.