Theranos founder Elizabeth Holmes loses bid to stay out of prison during appeal

Theranos founder Elizabeth Holmes arrives at the federal courthouse accompanied by her partner Billy Evans, to ask a US judge at a hearing to pause her prison sentence of more than 11 years while she urges an appeals court to review her conviction on charges of defrauding investors in the blood testing startup at the federal courthouse in San Jose, California, US.— Reuters/File

Theranos founder Elizabeth Holmes’ plea to remain free on bail has been rejected by a California judge, dashing the former medical technology startup leader’s hopes to dodge over a decade-long jail time, according to court documents.

Elizabeth Holmes, who is making last-ditch efforts to challenge her conviction for wire fraud, was convicted in January 2022 of three counts of wire fraud and one count of conspiracy to commit wire fraud. 

She has on the face of it lost the bid to stay out of prison.

Her conviction was sealed after a jury learned that she had conned investors out of more than $100 million over a faulty blood-testing device.

Holmes, who rose to fame after claiming Theranos’ small machines could run an array of diagnostic tests with just a few drops of blood, was convicted at trial in San Jose, California last year.

US District Judge Edward Davila sentenced Holmes to 11 years and three months in prison in November. Holmes asked Davila to postpone the sentence while the 9th US Circuit Court of Appeals reviews her case.

Davila concluded that even if Holmes won her appeal to challenge the Theranos technology evidence, it wouldn’t result in a reversal or a new trial of all the counts she was found guilty of.

“ A court may allow a release during an appeal if the defendant is not seen as a flight risk or threat to the community, the request isn’t used to delay the defendant going to prison or the appeal raises a substantial question of facts or law,” the NPR reported.

“While Holmes was not seen as a danger to the community or flight risk, she has not successfully presented new evidence,” the court ruled.

In her appeal, Holmes denied the charges, though the court remarked “these disputes do not directly pertain to the conduct for which Ms Holmes was convicted.”

“Ms Holmes’s misrepresentations to Theranos investors involved more than just whether Theranos technology ‘worked as promised,'” the judge said. “Ms Holmes had also made several misrepresentations…such as those regarding the company’s financial status, reliance on third-party and commercially available devices, partnership with Walgreens, and validation by pharmaceutical companies.”

Prosecutors said during the trial that Holmes misrepresented Theranos’ technology and finances. Holmes testified in her own defence, saying she believed her statements were accurate at the time.

On appeal, Holmes plans to challenge several of the judge’s rulings, including his allowance of evidence about Theranos’ test accuracy that postdated her statements to investors.

Holmes’ co-defendant, former Theranos President Ramesh “Sunny” Balwani, was convicted of defrauding Theranos investors and patients at a separate trial and sentenced to 12 years and 11 months in prison.

In March, Davila denied Balwani’s request to remain free on bail during his appeal. The 9th Circuit also ruled that Balwani’s sentence should not be postponed while it considers his case.

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