Elizabeth Holmes gets emotional under fire by prosecutors

Nov 30, 2021, 4:01 PM | Updated: Dec 6, 2021, 6:07 am

SAN JOSE, Calif. (AP) — One-time entrepreneur Elizabeth Holmes, under questioning by prosecutors, struggled Tuesday to recall key events that led to her facing criminal fraud charges for allegedly fleecing investors and customers of her failed blood-testing startup Theranos.

Her cross-examination began the day after she shared painfully vivid memories of alleged abuse by her ex-lover and business partner, Sunny Balwani.

In between bouts of hazy recollection, Holmes wept on the witness stand after the federal prosecutor interrogating her asked to read aloud some of the amorous texts that she and Balwani exchanged during a five-year period while they were running Theranos and living together in a stealth romantic relationship.

“U are God’s tigress and warrior. You are extraordinary,” Balwani cooed to Holmes in a 2015 documents displayed in court Tuesday. Holmes quickly responded with this text: “Coming from my tiger means the whole universe to me.”

While poring over the old texts, Holmes occasionally dabbed away tears and wiped her nose with a tissue. The jury watched and listened along with a packed courtroom that included one person who trained a pair of binoculars on Holmes from a back row.

The drama unfolded the day after Holmes cast herself as a victim of Balwani’s abusive and controlling behavior while they were romantically involved from 2005 to 2016. Balwani, 56, also served as Theranos’ chief operating officer from 2009 to 2016 while Holmes, 37, was the CEO and controlling shareholder.

As part of her testimony, Holmes said she was raped at Stanford — a traumatic experience that she asserted Balwani exploited to control everything from her diet to her friendships.

Both Holmes and Balwani are now fighting criminal charges of duping investors and patients into believing that Theranos has invented a device that could scan for hundreds of potential health problems with a few drops of blood. After raising nearly $1 billion, Theranos collapsed amid revelations that the purportedly revolutionary technology she was peddling was horribly flawed.

Holmes’ trial, which began in early September, is now heading toward its climax. Holmes will return to the stand on Dec. 7. Her testimony could wrap up that day, raising the possibility that jury deliberations could begin by the end of next week.

Balwani, who is being tried separately, is expected to face the court early next year. His attorney, Jeffrey Coopersmith, has denied Holmes’ allegations of “intimate partner abuse.” Coopersmith on Tuesday also told U.S. District Judge Edward Davila that Balwani would assert his Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination if he were called to testify in Holmes’ trial.

Although Holmes has been on the stand since Nov. 19, Tuesday marked the first opportunity for federal prosecutors to grill her under oath.

Robert Leach, the government lawyer confronting Holmes, didn’t touch upon Holmes’ alleged rape nor her testimony about Balwani berating her, sometimes in profane terms. Instead, he used roughly 12,000 texts sent between Holmes and Balwani to counter her contention that they had a relationship that was more toxic than romantic.

At one point, Leach asked Holmes if she would be surprised if the word “love” appeared 594 times in the texts obtained by the government and the word “loving” was used 105 times. “No,” Holmes said with a slight smile.

But Holmes spent much of Tuesday responding “I don’t remember” and “I don’t know” to Leach’s questions about key incidents in the startup’s history. She claimed forgetfulness so frequently that Leach made the phrase “let’s see if I can refresh your memory” a common refrain as he presented her with document after document related to the fraud charges.

Leach seemed intent on proving that Holmes she knew she was making false statements to investors and Walgreens, which briefly used Theranos’ blood tests in its pharmacies.

Holmes’ apparent forgetfulness contrasted sharply with her clear recall of her interactions with Balwani — some of them dating back more than a decade.

But she also seemed to have reflected on her behavior at Theranos. She expressed remorse for the way she responded to the concerns of two former employees and her attempts to stop the 2015 publication of a Wall Street Journal expose that helped lead to Theranos’ collapse.

“I could not say more strongly the way that we handled the Wall Street Journal process was a total disaster. We really messed up,” Holmes said.

John Carreyrou, the reporter who wrote the Wall Street Journal story and a book about Theranos’ rise and fall, sat in the back of the courtroom during Holmes’ moment of contrition while taking notes for a podcast he has been doing about the trial.

Holmes also acknowledged she was too quick to dismiss warnings from the two former employees, Erika Cheung and Tyler Shultz, who reported that Theranos’ blood-testing device — dubbed Edison — was delivering inaccurate results that could endanger patients’ health.

“I sure as hell wished we treated her differently and listened to her,” said Holmes of Cheung, who quit Theranos in exasperation after concluding her complaints were being ignored.

Shultz, the grandson of former U.S. Secretary of State and Theranos board member George Shultz, also resigned from Theranos in 2015 under similar circumstances.

Both Cheung and Shultz became whistleblowers and provided information to Carreyrou for his Journal story. After discovering that Cheung and Shultz were talking to Carreyrou, Theranos attorney David Boies sent letters to both of them threatening to sue them. Holmes on Tuesday insisted she was trying to protect trade secrets.

The tactics sullied Holmes’ relationship with George Shultz, who initially backed her even after his grandson began sounding alarms about Theranos’ technology.

George Shultz, who died earlier this year, became fed up after Theranos sent over attorneys to pressure Tyler to sign non-disclosure documents at his house in May 2015, prompting him to call Holmes and complain that it was “one of the worst things I have ever seen anyone do,” according to Leach.

Holmes told Leach she didn’t recall precisely what George Shultz said during that conversation. “I remember George being angry,” she said.

Holmes could face prison time of up to 20 years if convicted.

Copyright © The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

AP

In this photo provided by the Ukrainian Emergency Service, a damaged residential building is seen i...
Associated Press

Russian missiles kill at least 19 in Ukraine’s Odesa region

KYIV, Ukraine (AP) — Russian missile attacks on residential areas in a coastal town near the Ukrainian port city of Odesa early Friday killed at least 19 people, authorities reported, a day after Russian forces withdrew from a strategic Black Sea island. Video of the pre-dawn attack showed the charred remains of buildings in the […]
3 hours ago
Associated Press

UK government faces new boozy scandal as deputy whip quits

LONDON (AP) — Britain’s government is facing another boozy scandal after the deputy chief whip resigned from his post following a drunken incident this week, with Prime Minister Boris Johnson facing calls on Friday to expel him from the Conservative Party. Chris Pincher, whose role was to maintain discipline among Tory members of Parliament, submitted […]
3 hours ago
A Volvo XC40 electric vehicle is shown on, Dec. 13, 2021. Sweden's luxury car maker Volvo Cars will...
Associated Press

Volvo to build $1.25 billion electric car plant in Slovakia

BRATISLAVA, Slovakia (AP) — Swedish luxury vehicle maker Volvo Cars plans to build a new European plant in eastern Slovakia, the country’s economy minister said Friday. Volvo’s third European plant will be located in Kosice, Slovakia’s second-largest city, Economy Minister Richard Sulik said. Volvo will receive about 20% of the 1.2 billion euros ($1.25 billion) […]
3 hours ago
FILE - A customer pays for vegetables at the Maravillas market in Madrid, on May 12, 2022. Inflatio...
Associated Press

Inflation in 19 countries using euro hits record 8.6%

LONDON (AP) — Inflation in the 19 countries that use the euro currency hit a record 8.6% in June, pushed higher by a strong increase in energy costs fueled partly by Russia’s war in Ukraine. Food prices also picked up pace. Annual inflation in the eurozone surged past the 8.1% recorded in May, according to […]
3 hours ago
FILE - The logo of  Chinese technology firm Alibaba is seen at its office in Beijing, Tuesday, Aug....
Associated Press

Ex-Alibaba employee says ex-boss should be charged with rape

TAIPEI, Taiwan (AP) — A former employee of Chinese e-commerce giant Alibaba has accused her then-manager of trying to rape her on a business trip last year as she pushes police to review charges in a case that has cast a rare spotlight on workplace harassment in the country. The employee, a woman identified only […]
3 hours ago
Tourists take a selfie in front of the Trevi Fountain, in Rome, Monday, June 20, 2022. Summer trave...
Associated Press

After two pandemic years, a summer travel bounce — and chaos

JERUSALEM (AP) — At a tourism conference in Phuket last month, Thailand’s prime minister looked out at attendees and posed a question with a predictable answer. “Are you ready?” Prayuth Chan-ocha asked, dramatically removing his mask and launching what’s hoped to be the country’s economic reset after more than two years of coronavirus-driven restrictions. When […]
3 hours ago

Sponsored Articles

...
Carla Berg, MHS, Deputy Director, Public Health Services, Arizona Department of Health Services

Vaccines are safe if you are pregnant or breastfeeding

Are you pregnant? Do you have a friend or loved one who’s expecting?
...
Christina O’Haver

BE FAST to spot a stroke

Every 40 seconds—that’s how often someone has a stroke in the United States. It’s the fifth leading cause of death among Americans, with someone dying of a stroke every 3.5 minutes.
...
Carla Berg, MHS, Deputy Director, Public Health Services, Arizona Department of Health Services

ADHS mobile program brings COVID-19 vaccines and boosters to Arizonans

The Arizona Department of Health Services and partner agencies are providing even more widespread availability by making COVID-19 vaccines available in neighborhoods through trusted community partners.
Elizabeth Holmes gets emotional under fire by prosecutors