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Federal court grants seven-week postponement of Holmes’ criminal fraud trial, pushing start date to August 31

Clinical laboratories have rarely seen a saga like that of defunct Theranos and its former CEO Elizabeth Holmes. And yet, just when we think nothing else could be added to the drama, it turns out Holmes is now pregnant and requesting a change to the court dates to accommodate her condition.

And the courts have agreed. After being delayed multiple times due to the COVID-19 pandemic, a federal judge has pushed back Holmes’ trial from mid-July to August 31 because Holmes is due to give birth in July.

United States District Court Judge Edward Davila ruled March 19 that he would grant a six-week delay to Holmes, The Mercury News reported, however Davila told Holmes in a San Jose U.S. District Court videoconference hearing on March 17 he wants the trial to begin in August without any further delays.

Allegations of Fraud Involving Issues with Clinical Laboratory Tests

Holmes is facing 12 counts of wire fraud charges for alleged false claims that Theranos had created a revolutionary technology for performing a wide range of clinical laboratory tests using a tiny amount of blood. In a series of investigative reports that Dark Daily covered, The Wall Street Journal (WSJ) alleged Theranos had not disclosed publicly that the vast majority of its tests were not being done with proprietary technology but with traditional machines purchased from Siemens AG and other companies.

Dark Daily has continually reported on the events surrounding Theranos and the charges of fraud brought against Holmes and Ramesh Balwani, Theranos’ former Chief Operating Officer, in multiple ebriefings going back to 2015. Most recently in “Theranos CEO Elizabeth Holmes Trial Delayed Again, This Time Due to COVID-19 Restrictions, as Lawyers Battle Over Destroyed Clinical Laboratory Test Evidence,” February 22.

Elizabeth Holmes in court looks on in a grey blazer
Elizabeth Holmes, 37 (above), founded now-defunct Theranos in 2003 after dropping out of Stanford University. The blood testing company reached a peak valuation of $9 billion in 2015, but its Cinderella story hit the skids later that same year when a Wall Street Journal investigation exposed the company’s massive deceptions and questionable practices related to its finger-prick blood-testing technology. Dark Daily covered how these events, and the eventual fall of Theranos, affected clinical laboratories nationwide in multiple ebriefings starting in 2015. (Photo copyright: SFGATE.)

Prosecutors Express Their Frustration

While prosecutors supported the latest postponement in Holmes’ trial, they expressed irritation they were not notified sooner about Holmes’ pregnancy.

“It’s frustrating and disappointing to learn about this now,” Assistant U.S. Attorney Robert Leach said during a video conference call, CNBC reported, noting that Leach pointed out prosecutors were informed about Holmes’ pregnancy on March 2.

Holmes’ Pregnancy May Help Her in Court

In June 2019, Vanity Fair reported that Holmes had married William Evans, heir to the Evans Hotel Group chain of hotels in California.

Holmes’ pregnancy is, apparently, not a surprise to at least one of her critics. In 2019, the Toronto Sun reported that a “cynical” former Theranos’ employee told Vanity Fair, “Holmes is going to get pregnant before she gets on the stand because she will look very sympathetic as a pregnant woman on the stand.”

NBC News legal analyst Danny Cevallos maintains Holmes’ status as a new mother may prove beneficial in her quest to avoid prison time. Holmes faces maximum penalties of 20 years behind bars and a $2.75 million fine, plus restitution.

“Whether conscious or unconscious, judges, prosecutors, and jurors might worry about the effect of maternal incarceration on a newborn baby in a way that they don’t when the defendant is male,” Cevallos told CNBC. “Being a new mother can only help get her sympathy from jurors.

“If convicted, even if her sentencing guidelines call for incarceration, her attorneys will place her motherhood front and central before the judge,” Cevallos added.

According to an earlier CNBC article, defense attorneys and prosecutors asked Davila to delay the start of the trial in a court filing March 12.

“On March 2, 2021, counsel for Defendant advised the government that Defendant is pregnant, with an expected due date in July 2021,” prosecutors and attorneys for Holmes wrote in the filing, CNBC reported. “Both parties agree that, in light of this development, it is not feasible to begin the trial on July 13, 2021.”

Is the Curtain Finally Closing on Theranos?

Bloomberg reported that Holmes’ defense team may be considering an insanity defense. That possibility became public knowledge when a September 2020 court filing revealed defense attorneys were planning to introduce evidence of “mental disease or defect” or other mental condition “bearing on the issue of guilt.”

Will clinical laboratory professionals who have followed with interest the rise and fall of Theranos see a closing chapter in the disgraced in vitro diagnostics company’s saga when Holmes does finally stand trial this fall? Maybe. Meanwhile, the melodrama continues.

—Andrea Downing Peck

Related Information:

Theranos Founder Elizabeth Holmes’ Trial Delayed Because of Pregnancy

How Startup Theranos Has Struggled with Its Blood-Test Technology

Elizabeth Holmes Trial Pushed to August After Surprise Pregnancy Announcement

Elizabeth Holmes Trial Likely to be Delayed Because She’s Pregnant

Inside Elizabeth Holmes’ Secret Wedding

Bad Blood: Is Disgraced Elizabeth Holmes’ Wedding to Heir Her Latest Scam?

Theranos’ Holmes May Point to ‘Mental Disease’ in Her Defense