Elizabeth Holmes returns to court to avoid jail

SAN JOSE, Calif. (AP) – The disgraced CEO of Theranos, Elizabeth Holmes, made what may be her last court appearance on Friday before serving an 11-year sentence unless a judge grants her motion to be released, while her attorneys are appealing her conviction for masterminding a blood test false.

The 90-minute hearing came four months after Holmes’ last court hearing. At the time, US District Judge Edward Davila convicted her of deceiving investors in Theranos, a startup she founded 20 years ago that catapulted it to fleeting fame and fortune with its promises of revolutionary blood testing technology.

Before the hearing began, a man in the audience in the San Jose, California, courtroom attempted to approach the table where Holmes was sitting while carrying a document. He was quickly intercepted by security officers who forcibly removed him. Holmes didn’t seem unnerved by the interruption.

The trial ended without a determination as to whether Holmes, 39, will be able to stay out of prison during her appeal or hand himself over to authorities on April 27, as currently planned. Davila said he hopes to issue his verdict in early April.

The judge earlier this month denied a similar request from Holmes’ former lover and convicted Theranos accomplice Ramesh “Sunny” Balwani, who faces a nearly 13-year sentence after a jury found him guilty of 12 counts of fraud and conspiracy. Balwani, 57, was due to report to a federal prison in Southern California on Thursday, but his attorney used a last-minute legal maneuver to buy more time.

Holmes arrived at her St. Patrick’s Day hearing wearing a black blazer and blue skirt. She recently gave birth to her second child, according to court records, which did not reveal the gender or date of birth.

One of her attorneys, Amy Saharia, argued that Holmes should be allowed to remain free during her four-month trial due to various missteps in producing and failing to provide evidence, making it likely that an appeals court will overturn her conviction on four counts of fraud and conspiracy.

“We think the record is fraught with problems,” Saharia claimed. She specifically cited Davila’s refusal to allow the jury to see an affidavit Balwani gave during a Securities and Exchange Commission investigation into the fall of Theranos, which the Holmes defense team believes would have helped exonerate her .

Federal Attorney Kelly Volkar countered that there was “no likelihood of reversal” of Holmes’ conviction, claiming that the trial documented seven different types of deception she engaged in while running Theranos. Most of the deception centered on a device called the “Edison,” which Holmes had boasted of being able to cure hundreds of diseases and other health problems with just a few drops of blood drawn with a prick of the finger to scan.

But the Edison provided such unreliable results that Theranos began to rely on third-party test equipment already widely available on the market — a switch Holmes hid to keep the company afloat.

“That was shocking for investors,” recalled Volkar Davila.

The two opposing sides also fell out over how much compensation Holmes should pay to betrayed investors whose trust briefly boosted their fortunes to $4.5 billion, based on Theranos’ pre-failure peak.

US Attorney Robert Leach argued that her conviction for staging a conspiracy warranted restitution of nearly $900 million to repay Theranos investors implicated in her lies. “Just to use common sense, the money these investors lost is the money they put in,” Leach said.

But Hollmes’ attorney, Patrick Looby, countered that prosecutors were way off the mark in pursuing an “all or nothing” restitution amount. He noted that the jury failed to reach a verdict on three counts of investor fraud at their trial, prompting prosecutors to dismiss those charges. At most, Looby said, Holmes’ restitution sentence should be limited to the handful of investors who testified during their trial.

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