Elizabeth Holmes, founder of Theranos Inc., left, leaves federal court with husband Billy Evans in San Jose, California on Oct. 17, 2022.
A federal judge on Friday will decide whether disgraced Theranos CEO Elizabeth Holmes should serve a lengthy prison sentence for duping investors and endangering patients while peddling a bogus blood-testing technology.
Holmes’ sentencing in the same San Jose, California, courtroom where she was convicted on four counts of investor fraud and conspiracy in January marks a climactic moment in a saga that has been dissected in an HBO documentary and an award-winning Hulu TV series about her meteoric rise and mortifying downfall.
U.S. District Judge Edward Davila will take center stage as he weighs the federal government’s recommendation to send Holmes, 38, to federal prison for 15 years. That’s slightly less than the maximum sentence of 20 years she could face, but far longer than her legal team’s attempt to limit her incarceration to no more than 18 months, preferably served in home confinement. Her lawyers have argued that Holmes deserves more lenient treatment as a well-meaning entrepreneur who is now a devoted mother with another child on the way.
Prosecutors also want Holmes to pay $804 million in restitution. The amount covers most of the nearly $1 billion that Holmes raised from a list of sophisticated investors that included software magnate Larry Ellison, media mogul Rupert Murdoch, and the Walton family behind Walmart.
While wooing investors, Holmes leveraged a high-powered Theranos board that included former U.S. Defense Secretary James Mattis, who testified against her during her trial, and two former U.S. Secretaries of State, Henry Kissinger and the late George Shultz, whose son submitted a statement blasting Holmes for concocting a scheme that played Shultz “for the fool.”
Davila’s judgment — and Holmes’ reporting date for a potential stint in prison — could be affected by the former entrepreneur’s second pregnancy in two years. After giving birth to a son shortly before her trial started last year, Holmes became pregnant at some point while free on bail this year.
Although her lawyers didn’t mention the pregnancy in a 82-page memo submitted to Davila last week, the pregnancy was confirmed in a letter from her current partner, William “Billy” Evans, that urged the judge to be merciful.
In that 12-page letter, which included pictures of Holmes doting on their 1-year-old son, Evans mentioned that Holmes participated in a Golden Gate Bridge swimming event earlier this year while pregnant. He also noted Holmes suffered through a case of COVID in August while pregnant. Evans didn’t disclose Holmes’ due date in his letter.
Duncan Levin, a former federal prosecutor who is now a defense attorney, predicted that Davila’s sentencing decision won’t be swayed by the pregnancy, but expects the judge to allow her to remain free until after the baby is born.
“She will be no more of a flight risk after she is sentenced that she was while awaiting sentencing,” Levin said. “We have to temper our sentences with some measure of humanity.”
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