Elizabeth Holmes will spend more than 11 years in prison for duping investors who gave nearly $1 billion to the startup that promised to revolutionize blood testing. They were sold on a product that never even worked.
Holmes, 38, faced a maximum of 20 years in prison. Her legal team requested no more than 18 months, preferably served in home confinement. Prosecutors asked for 15 years.
The sentencing in the same San Jose courtroom where Holmes was convicted on four counts of investor fraud and conspiracy marked another climactic moment in a saga that has been dissected in an HBO documentary and an award-winning Hulu series.
Theranos promised to deliver revolutionary technology that could scan for hundreds of diseases and other aliments with just a few drops of blood. But, it never worked. Evidence submitted during her trial showed the blood tests produced wildly unreliable results that could have steered patients toward the wrong treatments.
Tyler Shultz is the first whistleblower who reported the troubling findings to federal regulators.
“I do think justice was served,” Shultz said Friday on “CUOMO.” “There were a lot of external factors at play … so I’m happy that none of those external factors seemed to really play a role in sentencing.”
One of those external factors is that Holmes is pregnant. Although her lawyers didn’t mention the pregnancy in an 82-page memo arguing for leniency, the pregnancy was confirmed in a letter from her current partner, William “Billy” Evans, that urged the judge to be merciful.
Holmes also gave birth to a son shortly before her trial began last year.
“She chose to have these children when significant prison time was on the table, so I don’t think that should be a reason to decrease her prison time,” Shultz said. “This was a startup that systematically defrauded investors of hundreds of millions of dollars and put patients’ lives at risk.”
Sara Azari, a criminal defense attorney, said Friday on “CUOMO” that pregnancy isn’t typically weighed as a mitigating factor.
“It’s one thing if you’re already pregnant when you are indicted, but it’s another thing to get pregnant knowing that there’s a possibility of a hefty sentence,” Azari said. “In this case what the judge has done is said ‘I’m gonna give you time (for the child to be born) and then you can surrender.'”
Holmes lawyers painted her as a selfless visionary who spent 14 years trying to revolutionize health care. They asserted that Holmes never stopped trying to perfect the technology until Theranos collapsed in 2018.
They also pointed out that Holmes never sold any of her Theranos shares — a stake valued at $4.5 billion in 2014. “Where did all the money go? To building technology,” her lawyer, Kevin Downey, said.
Azari called that defense disingenuous.
“They lost credibility, and I think this sent a really loud and clear message that white-collar crime is real crime and there’s real punishment for it,” Azari said. “In Silicon Valley specifically, I think it sent the message that even though we as a society encourage innovation, we are not going to allow innovation to shield shade.”
Holmes, who the judge gave until April 27 to report to prison, must serve 85% of her 11.25-year sentence before she is eligible for parole. Downey indicated they would appeal the sentence.
During the sentencing, Holmes sobbed as she told the judge she accepted responsibility for her actions.
Shultz isn’t convinced.
“It still seems like she doesn’t quite take accountability for those things. She still kind of points to others. It was Sunny’s (Ramesh Balwani) fault, it was the investors’ fault, it was her board’s fault,” Shultz said. “She doesn’t seem to really take accountability for what happened, even though I think she does recognize that what she did was not right.”
The Associated Press contributed to this report.