Senator Cory Booker, Democrat of New Jersey, lately praised Elizabeth Holmes’s considerate focus and “determination to make a difference.”
The actress Ricki Noel Lander mentioned Ms. Holmes was “a trustworthy friend and a genuinely lovely person.”
And Channing Robertson, who was a professor of chemical engineering at Stanford University, counseled Ms. Holmes for her “compassion for others.”
Their feedback had been a part of a cache of greater than 100 letters that had been filed over the past week to a federal decide in San Jose, Calif., in an effort to cut back the punishment for Ms. Holmes, the founding father of the failed blood testing start-up Theranos. In January, she was convicted of 4 counts of defrauding traders about Theranos’s know-how and enterprise dealings. She is scheduled to be sentenced for these crimes on Friday.
Ms. Holmes, 38, faces a most of 20 years in jail, based on federal sentencing tips for wire fraud. Her legal professionals have requested 18 months of home arrest, whereas prosecutors have requested for 15 years of imprisonment. The probation officer in Ms. Holmes’s case has beneficial a sentence of 9 years.
The determination lies with Judge Edward J. Davila of U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California, who oversaw Ms. Holmes’s trial final yr. In addition to the letters from her supporters asking for leniency, he’s set to have in mind prolonged memos filed by her legal professionals and prosecutors, and can take into account whether or not Ms. Holmes has accepted duty for her actions.
Most notably, Judge Davila should weigh the message that Ms. Holmes’s sentence sends to the world. Her high-profile case got here to represent the excesses and hubris of Silicon Valley corporations that usually play quick and unfastened with the regulation. Theranos raised $945 million from traders, valuing the corporate at $9 billion, on the declare that its know-how may precisely run many exams on a single drop of blood. But the know-how by no means labored as promised.
Few tech executives are ever discovered responsible of fraud. So a lighter sentence for Ms. Holmes may ship the flawed sign to the business, authorized specialists mentioned.
“This is a case with more deterrence potential than most,” mentioned Andrew George, a white-collar protection lawyer at Baker Botts. “Judge Davila will be sensitive to any impression that this person of privilege got a slap on the wrist.”
Elizabeth Holmes’s Epic Rise and Fall
The Theranos founder’s story, from a $9 billion valuation to a fraud conviction, has come to represent the pitfalls of Silicon Valley’s tradition.
Since Ms. Holmes was convicted, different excessive profile start-up founders have additionally come below scrutiny, prompting additional debates over start-up ethics. Trevor Milton, the founding father of the electrical automobile start-up Nikola, was convicted final month on expenses of mendacity about his firm’s know-how. Sam Bankman-Fried, the founding father of the cryptocurrency change FTX, is below quite a few investigations after his firm abruptly collapsed out of business final week.
Lawyers for Ms. Holmes didn’t reply to a request for remark.
Prosecutors mentioned in courtroom filings that important jail time for her would ship a message to different entrepreneurs who stretched the reality. An extended sentence wouldn’t solely “deter future start-up fraud schemes” but additionally “rebuild the trust investors must have when funding innovators,” they wrote.
Ms. Holmes’s legal professionals tried downplaying the cash that traders misplaced on Theranos, portray the enterprise capital business as a bunch of subtle wealthy folks who don’t completely analysis their investments. And of their letters of assist, her allies mentioned that what had occurred at Theranos was no completely different from the outcomes at many different start-ups.
“Failures are a part of the game in Silicon Valley,” mentioned Alex Moore, an investor on the funding agency 8VC. “We can’t punish our innovators in society or there will be no innovation.”
In one other letter, Yinne Yu, a enterprise capital investor, mentioned Ms. Holmes “showed more introspection and remorse than what I’d personally witnessed in any other failed founder” in a decade of investing.
Tim Draper, a enterprise capital investor who backed Theranos, wrote that Ms. Holmes was being condemned by society for “taking that enormous risk, sacrificing everything and failing.” He conceded that he didn’t know all of the info of the case.
The letters — which got here from members of the family, childhood and school associates, former staff, roommates, consultants and board members — tried reframing Ms. Holmes as a heat and selfless particular person. They additionally painted the primary detailed image of what her life has been like lately. Outside of her testimony at her trial, Ms. Holmes has not spoken publicly since Theranos collapsed in 2018.
The courtroom filings confirmed that she turned pregnant together with her second youngster since her conviction. She additionally logged 500 hours as a rape disaster counselor and swam throughout the San Francisco Bay. Her canine, Balto, was killed by mountain lions.
Prosecutors argued that the letters of assist for Ms. Holmes confirmed that she couldn’t blame her crimes on a troublesome upbringing. “Holmes, with strong family support, exceptional educational opportunities and financial stability, chose to commit fraud, repeatedly,” they wrote.
In an eight-page, single-spaced letter, Billy Evans, Ms. Holmes’s accomplice, wrote that a lot of what has been written about her was unfaithful, together with the truth that she was a superb salesperson.
“Liz has no ability to ‘sell something’; she simply believes in things with such depth that it is alluring,” Mr. Evans wrote. “She is more of a zealot than a showman.” He mentioned Ms. Holmes’s notoriety had ruined any privateness and described a life below fixed surveillance and menace.
Mr. Evans’s father, William, who posed as a spectator named “Hanson” at Ms. Holmes’s trial, mentioned in his personal letter that Google search outcomes for Ms. Holmes exceeded these for Babe Ruth or Ronald Reagan — and all of hers had been damaging. “Osama bin Laden has 21 million results, many of which are positive,” he added.
In his letter, Mr. Booker described assembly Ms. Holmes at an occasion hosted a decade in the past by Senator John McCain of Arizona, the place they shared a bag of almonds for dinner. They had been each vegan.
“I believe that Ms. Holmes has within her a sincere desire to help others, to be of meaningful service, and possesses the capacity to redeem herself,” Mr. Booker wrote.
Prosecutors countered these portraits with proof introduced at Ms. Holmes’s trial. She manipulated regulators, lied to the media, falsified paperwork and intimidated whistle-blowers, main one worker, Tyler Shultz, to ponder suicide, they wrote. She loved the fruits of her fraud, they wrote, flying on a non-public jet, dwelling in a $15 million mansion, showing on journal covers and eating on the White House.
“She repeatedly chose lies, hype and the prospect of billions of dollars over patient safety and fair dealing with investors,” they mentioned.
In addition to fifteen years in jail, prosecutors requested the courtroom to order Ms. Holmes to pay $804 million in restitution for hurt completed to Safeway and Walgreens, two corporations that Theranos had partnerships with, and George P. Shultz, the previous secretary of state. Mr. Shultz, who died final yr, was Tyler Shultz’s grandfather and sat on Theranos’s board.
Ms. Holmes didn’t make a lot cash on Theranos, the courtroom filings confirmed. On high of a $450,000 mortgage to pay a settlement with the Securities and Exchange Commission, she has authorized charges of greater than $30 million, based on the filings. Prosecutors questioned whether or not Ms. Holmes and her household’s cash was being managed to keep away from paying again traders. Ms. Holmes’s legal professionals responded that suggesting Mr. Evans marry her so his household, which owns a sequence of resorts, pay her money owed was “unfounded.”
Prosecutors additionally questioned whether or not Ms. Holmes felt regret.
“She accepts no responsibility,” they wrote. “Quite the opposite, she insists she is the victim. She is not.”