- The March 9 trial follows the March 3 release of the much anticipated Hulu series “The Dropout,” where Amanda Seyfried portrays Elizabeth Holmes, while British Indian actor Naveen Andrews plays Balwani.
Ramesh “Sunny” Balwani, former president of Theranos Inc., a private health care and life sciences company in Palo Alto, California, and ex-boyfriend of founder and CEO Elizabeth Holmes is scheduled to face trial on March 9.
Holmes, 38, and Balwani, 56, were originally charged in June 2018 on two counts of conspiracy to commit wire fraud and nine counts of wire fraud. According to the indictment unsealed on June 15, 2018, the pair had engaged in a multi-million dollar scheme to defraud investors and a separate scheme to defraud doctors and patients, and both schemes entailed promotion. If convicted, each of them could face 20 years in prison and fines of $250,000, plus restitution, for each count of wire fraud and for each conspiracy count.
Holmes had founded Theranos in 2003 as a 19-year-old college dropout and was hailed and celebrated as a Silicon Valley whiz-kid. The Palo Alto, California-based Theranos was aiming to revolutionize medical laboratory testing through allegedly innovative methods for drawing blood, testing blood, and interpreting the resulting patient data to improve outcomes and lower health care costs.
In early January, Holmes was found guilty on four charges of defrauding investors of criminal fraud for her role in building the blood-testing startup into a $9 billion company that collapsed in scandal. She was found not guilty on three additional charges concerning defrauding patients and one charge of conspiracy to defraud patients. The jury returned no verdict on three of the charges concerning defrauding investors. Holmes, meanwhile, remains free on bond, and her sentencing has been scheduled for Sept. 26.
The March 9 trial follows the release of the much anticipated Hulu series “The Dropout,” which premieres March 3. Amanda Seyfried portrays Holmes, while British Indian actor Naveen Andrews plays Balwani. The limited drama series is based on ABC News/ABC Radio’s podcast about the rise and fall of Holmes and her company. The East Bay Times says that while it doesn’t reveal anything most of us didn’t already know about the story, The Dropout is “worth your time” and “an entertaining, sly and informative adaptation” of the podcast.
Balwani’s trial has been postponed twice. The Mercury News reported that the trial, which had been scheduled to start in February, was delayed because of “a surge in Covid cases in California.” Quoting Judge Edward Davila in San Jose, the report said that “the trial may be pushed to March.” Previously, the trial was postponed to Feb. 15 from Jan. 11, due to the lengthy trial of Holmes, which went on for nearly eight weeks.
During her testimony, Holmes accused Balwani of emotionally and sexually abusing her, which apparently compromised her judgment during the time of the alleged crimes. Holmes made the accusations during her much-anticipated testimony on Nov. 29, in an attempt to refute accusations that she lied about a flawed blood-testing technology, which she had touted as a breakthrough. She blamed Balwani for allegedly exploiting, using and misleading her.
Holmes was 18 when she met Balwani, then 38, during a trip to China. She told the court that what began as a professional relationship eventually turned amorous. The two became romantically involved in 2005 before Balwani became the chief operating officer at Theranos, a position he held from 2009 to 2016. They were together for 12 years.
In an effort to blame her ex-boyfriend for her mental state during the times she committed fraud, Holmes testified that her rape at Stanford played a role in her being subservient to Balwani. She told the court that after the incident, she stopped attending classes and immersed herself into building her company instead. “I was questioning what — how I was going to be able to process that experience and what I wanted to do with my life,” she told the court, according to news reports. “I decided that I was going to build a life by building this company.” Holmes mentioned that later when she told Balwani the trauma of her rape at Stanford, he told her she was safe, now that had met him.
However, the picture she painted of her ex-boyfriend was far from being a safety anchor for her. She told the court that he berated her and controlled her. When he was upset with her, he forced her to have sex with him, to show her that he loved her. “He told me that I didn’t know what I was doing in business, that my convictions were wrong, that he was astonished at my mediocrity,” she said, adding that he told her that she needed “to kill the person” if she was to become successful. “He felt like I came across as a little girl and thought I needed to be more serious and more pointed.”
At other times, Holmes said, Balwani would liken her to a “monkey flying a spaceship” and tried to cut her off from her family in an alleged effort to ensure that she devoted herself full-time to Theranos. She also said he controlled her diet in an attempt to keep her “pure.” She told the court that Balwani “wasn’t who I thought he was,” and that he “impacted everything about who I was and I don’t fully understand that.”
Balwani has pleaded not guilty and has denied Holmes’s abuse allegations, “which were an important part of the testimony she gave at her trial but aren’t expected to re-surface at his,” according to Bloomberg Law.