Once celebrated as the “next Steve Jobs” and “the world’s youngest self-made female billionaire,” tech icon Elizabeth Holmes now faces decades in prison after being found guilty of conspiring to defraud investors out of billions.
The former CEO of failed Silicon Valley blood-testing startup Theranos, Holmes was found guilty on four of 11 charges against her in a San Jose, California courthouse. The jury was deadlocked and reached no verdict on three of the charges concerning defrauding investors. Judge Edward Davila is expected to declare a mistrial on the latter. Holmes was found not guilty on three other charges of defrauding patients and one charge of conspiracy to defraud patients, CNN reported.
Holmes faces up to 20 years in prison and a fine of $250,000 plus restitution for each count.
A Standford University dropout, Holmes had no medical training but some of the world’s richest people bought into her desire to improve health technology. Media billionaire Rupert Murdoch, former national security advisor Henry Kissinger and billionaire Oracle executive Larry Ellison believed her when she said she had found a way to test blood with just a fingerprick.
The valuation of Theranos skyrocketed to $9 billion and Forbes named Holmes the youngest and wealthiest self-made female billionaire after the company claimed it had revolutionized blood testing.
Dressing in black turtlenecks, Holmes was compared to her idol, Jobs and raised her profile on the public speaking circuit. At a 2014 TedMed conference, she said getting a blood test should be easier, quicker, cheaper and a wonderful experience.
“Here was a photogenic, telegenic young woman posing as the female Steve Jobs,” said Margaret O’Mara, a Silicon Valley historian and professor at the University of Washington. “It was an incredibly alluring narrative that everyone wanted to believe.”
But the Theranos tests did not work and the company was accused of faking results.
Wall Street Journal reporter John Carreyrou started investigating the validity of the company’s tests. Holmes asked the Journal’s owner, Theranos investor Rupert Murdoch – to halt the publication. That came back to haunt Holmes during the trial, the Guardian reported.
“You personally went to the owner of The Wall Street Journal to try to quash the story,” assistant US attorney Robert Leach said during the trial. “I did,” she replied.
Regulatory investigations followed and Theranos collapsed in 2018.
While awaiting trial, Holmes gave birth to her first child on July 10, 2021, with partner William Holmes Evans in Redwood City, California.
“That is going to have a bearing on the jury’s perception of her,” predicted Caroline Polisi, a federal white-collar criminal defense attorney, during an ABC News podcast. “Those types of things actually play a really large role in trials, even though they’re not supposed to.
“Not only is that going to help her in her trial, but it will really help her in the event that she is convicted,” Polisi added. “The fact that she is a young, new mother is going to play into any potential sentence.”
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