Former Theranos CEO Elizabeth Holmes will be sentenced in late September, according to an order from the federal judge overseeing her case.
U.S. District Judge Edward Davila set Sept. 26 as the day the onetime Silicon Valley superstar will be punished following a jury convicting her on Jan. 3 of four fraud-related charges in connection with the collapse of her former blood-testing company, Theranos.
The maximum possible penalty 37-year-old Holmes faces is 20 years in federal prison, according to how judges typically sentence defendants in similar cases. But legal experts say Davila will likely hand down a far less severe punishment. Still, given the scale of the fraud, in the hundreds of millions of dollars, experts say lengthy prison time for Holmes would not be surprising.
“I would be utterly shocked if she wasn’t sentenced to some term of imprisonment,” said Amanda Kramer, a former federal prosecutor who now practices as a white-collar defense lawyer.
Kramer said the judge will consider the investors’ loss amount, her character and background, her efforts at rehabilitating and how the punishment could deter others from engaging in similar fraud.
“What is the sentence that will deter others who have a failing business from making the choice to commit fraud, rather than owning up to the failings and losing their dream?” Kramer said.
Holmes will remain free for the eight months leading up to her sentencing hearing on a $500,000 bond secured by property. She is reportedly living at a $135 million Silicon Valley estate with her partner, Billy Evans, who is the son of San Diego hotel magnate Bill Evans. Holmes and the younger Evans recently had a baby son together.
In March, Ramesh “Sunny” Balwani, the No. 2 at Theranos and Holmes’ former boyfriend, will stand trial on fraud charges in the same San Jose, California courthouse in which a jury convicted Holmes. While Davila will also preside over Balwani’s trial, a different jury will ultimately decide the fate of Balwani, who has pleaded not guilty.
Kramer, the former prosecutor, said there is some logic in waiting so long before Holmes’ sentencing date.
“It’s not typical for a case to be sentenced eight months out, but this is not a typical case in many senses,” Kramer said. “And some facts established in Balwani’s trial might prove to be relevant in Holmes’ sentencing.”
Over the course of a nearly four-month trial, prosecutors called 29 witnesses to make that case that Holmes intentionally deceived investors and patients by lying about the capability of Theranos’ blood-testing technology and pushing misleading statements about its business partnerships and financial outlook.
The jury, following seven days of deliberations, delivered a mixed verdict, acquitting Holmes of four counts related to patient fraud, deadlocking on three investor fraud counts, but finding her guilty of four charges linked to her defrauding of investors.
One juror told ABC News that the panel cleared her of the patient fraud counts because she was “one step removed” from patients who received false or faulty Theranos blood test. The juror also said when Holmes took the stand over seven days, her testimony did not come across as credible.
Holmes’ dramatic fall from grace has inspired a forthcoming Hulu series and a feature film is in the works.
The collapse of Theranos, which officially dissolved in 2018 amid controversy, has also prompted debate among Silicon Valley startups and venture capital investors about whether the industry’s culture that tends to encourage hype, exaggeration and eye-popping evaluations enabled the rise of the company.
Investors, mostly outside of Silicon Valley, poured some $945 million into Theranos, which in 2014 was estimated to be worth $9 billion, or, at the time, more valuable than companies like Uber, Spotify and Airbnb.