Stamford Advocate

Holmes drawn as villain, underdog as trial begins


Prosecutor­s and defense attorneys sketched dueling portraits of fallen Silicon Valley star Elizabeth Holmes as her trial got underway Wednesday, alternativ­ely describing her as a greedy villain who faked her way to the top and as a passionate underdog whose spent years trying to shake up the health care industry.

The two sides are now expected to spend the next three months trying to sway a 12person jury impaneled to hearing the evidence in a case airing allegation­s that Holmes used her startup, Theranos, as a scheme to realize her dreams of becoming rich and as famous as one of her role models, late Apple co-founder Steve Jobs.

Once hailed as a billionair­e on paper, Holmes is now facing a sentence of up to 20 years if convicted of the felony charges.

Holmes’ rise and fall has already been the subject of documentar­ies, books and pod

casts, feeding the fervor that has built up around a trial that has been delayed twice since she was indicted nearly three years ago. With roughly only 75 spots available for the media and general public to observe the proceeding­s, people began to line up outside the San Jose, California, courthouse before 5 a.m. Wednesday.

After the jury was seated and U.S. District Judge Edward Davila gave his preliminar­y instructio­ns, federal prosecutor Robert Leach wasted little time vilifying Holmes.

He cast Holmes in a dark light, depicting her as a conniving entreprene­ur who duped investors, customers and patients for years, even though she knew her startup, Theranos, was nearly bankrupt and its muchhyped blood-testing technology was a flop.

“This case is about fraud, about lying and cheating to get money,” Leach said during his roughly 45-minute opening statement.

He said the evidence would show that Theranos was already in deep trouble as far back as 2009, about six years after Holmes founded the Palo Alto, California, company. At that point, Leach said, Holmes resorted to a pattern of lying and hyperbole in an effort to fool major media outlets, wealthy investors such as media mogul Rupert Murdoch, well-connected Theranos board members such as former U.S. Secretarie­s of State George Shultz and Henry Kissinger, and customers such as Walgreens.

Some of the most damning evidence may be presented by a former top finance officer at Theranos who will testify that the company

only had $650,000 in revenue from 2011 through 2014, according to Leach. Yet Holmes was telling investors and other people that Theranos would generate $140 million in revenue in 2014, Leach said.

Holmes, 37, is also accused of promising that Theranos would be able to quickly test small vials of blood in a small company-designed machine named after the famed inventor Thomas Edison. Leach said the samples were actually sent out to outside parties for testing using standard-issue machines he described as “big” and “clunky.”

Theranos eventually failed in 2018, a few years after a series of explosive stories in The Wall Street Journal exposed serious flaws in its technology and spurred regulatory investigat­ions that shut down the testing.

The fraud committed by Holmes “is a fraud on Main Street and it’s a fraud in Silicon Valley,” Leach told the jury.

Holmes’ defense team countered with a more heroic narrative describing her as a tireless worker who poured more than 15 years of her life in pursuit of a faster, cheaper and less invasive way to test blood samples and screen for disease.

Defense attorney Lance Wade, argued that Holmes was simply trying to wrest control of the blood-testing technology market from two dominant laboratori­es, Quest Diagnostic­s and Labcorp. “She did her best day in and day out to make Theranos successful,” Wade said of Holmes as he began a roughly 90-minute presentati­on.

Although she didn’t succeed, Wade insisted that Holmes never stopped believing she was on the verge of a breakthrou­gh.

 ?? Associated Press ?? Elizabeth Holmes leaves the United States Federal Courthouse in San Jose, Calif., on Wednesday.
Associated Press Elizabeth Holmes leaves the United States Federal Courthouse in San Jose, Calif., on Wednesday.

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