Convicted Theranos fraudster Elizabeth Holmes is a “humble, hardworking, and compassionate woman who deeply wants to give what she can to the world,” and should be sent to prison for a maximum of 18 months or not at all, she argued in a court filing a week ahead of her sentencing.
Incarceration of Holmes — convicted in January on four counts of defrauding investors in her defunct Palo Alto blood-testing startup out of more than $144 million — is “unnecessary” to deter others from committing such crimes, or to uphold legal principles of just punishment and respect for the law, the filing in U.S. District Court in San Jose said.
“She openly acknowledges her business mistakes and she did not benefit in any material way notwithstanding the opportunity to do so,” the filing said, referring to trial testimony that Holmes never sold any of her Theranos stock, once valued at $4.5 billion. “Her suffering, including among other things extreme public ignominy, financial bankruptcy and the terrifying prospect of incarceration while the mother of a new baby, provides more than ample deterrence to others.”
Holmes, 38, founded Theranos at age 19, and gathered hundreds of millions of dollars in investments based on false claims that the startup’s technology could conduct a full range of tests using only a few drops of blood. She is to be sentenced Nov. 18. Legal experts believe Judge Edward Davila will impose a multi-year prison sentence, possibly mitigated because she has a 16-month-old son. According to a letter to Davila included with her filing, from her partner Billy Evans, Holmes is pregnant again.
Holmes included in the filing late Thursday more than 100 letters of support from family and friends. The filing summarizes several, describing Holmes as “a warm, thoughtful friend; a loving and dedicated mother and partner; a good listener; a mentor to young women and entrepreneurs; a boss who cared about the company’s employees; a chief executive dedicated to her company’s mission; (and) an intelligent and inventive problem solver.”
If she must go to prison, “a term of eighteen months or less, with a subsequent supervised release period that requires community service, will amply meet that charge,” Holmes asserted in the filing.
Holmes has already been serving the community, the filing said. “After her conviction, Ms. Holmes became certified as a rape crisis counselor and advocate, and has spent over five hundred hours volunteering in support of sexual assault survivors, including victims of domestic violence,” according to the filing. Holmes testified at her trial that her co-accused and former romantic partner Sunny Balwani forced sex on her — Balwani, convicted in July, has denied the claim — and that she was raped while a student at Stanford University.Holmes lacks money to pay restitution, and did not raise money from everyday people, the filing said.
Holmes acknowledged in the filing that many in the public hold a negative view of her. “Among the countless people in our society who do not know Elizabeth Holmes yet think they know about her case from the unusually intense media coverage of it, Ms. Holmes has become a caricature to be mocked and vilified,” the filing said, adding that Theranos is publicly perceived as “a house of cards, not as the ambitious, inventive, and indisputably valuable enterprise it was.”
This is a developing story. Check back for updates.
- Elizabeth Holmes wants no prison sentence, or maximum of 18 months
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