Elizabeth Holmes’ attorneys pin blame on ex-boyfriend, lab director

Elizabeth Holmes Trial

SAN JOSE, Calif. (KRON) — At the Elizabeth Holmes trial this week, her defense team played the blame game.

There are two men who Holmes’ attorneys are using as scapegoats for what went wrong at her Silicon Valley biotech company, Theranos. Those men are her ex-boyfriend, Sunny Balwani, and ex-Theranos lab director, Dr. Adam Rosendorff.

Defense attorney Lance Wade has been grilling Rosendorff for four days with cross-examinations. And he’s still not done. Rosendorff will be back on the witness stand when the trial resumes Tuesday.

Elizabeth Holmes
Elizabeth Holmes leaves the courthouse with her husband Billy Evans after the first day of her fraud trial on September 8, 2021. (Photo by Nick Otto /AFP via Getty Images)

Legal analysts say the defense is doing a good job of poking holes in Rosendorff’s credibility and ethical integrity. Wade stated multiple times that as Theranos’ lab director, Rosendorff was legally responsible for making sure blood tests were accurate.

“The defense did a good job of pointing out the responsibility that the lab director had, and things he failed to do. Such as, he didn’t call the doctors back when they were complaining about the accuracy of the tests,” legal analyst and former prosecutor Michele Hagan told KRON4.

“(Wade) did a good job getting the lab director to say he signed off on a lot of the SOPs, which shows he was endorsing the accuracy of these tests,” Hagan said.

Rosendorff was responsible for keeping the lab in compliance with federal regulations. He testified that he took those obligations seriously and had “many battles” over it with Balwani, who was COO of Theranos.

Rosendorff was the most prickly witness of Holmes’ trial so far.

Wade told Rosendorff that he took on big responsibilities at Theranos to earn over $200,000 a year.

“That’s why you got paid the big bucks,” right?” Wade asked.

“Not as big bucks as you get paid,” Rosendorff shot back.

When Rosendorff quit Theranos, he began leaking information to the Wall Street Journal. Earlier this week, Wall Street Journal reporter and “Bad Blood” author John Carreyrou revealed for the first time that Rosendorff was his “Deep Throat” for an investigative series into Theranos.

The rise and fall of Theranos is one of the biggest scandals in Silicon Valley history. The company’s blood lab is at the heart of why Holmes is facing possible prison time.

“Normandy lab is a f***ing disaster zone,” Theranos COO Sunny Balwani privately texted Holmes on Nov. 28, 2014. 

“Normandy” was the name for the secretive blood lab where lab workers frantically worked around-the-clock trying to recalibrate blood analyzer machines. Lab tech Erika Cheung testified that the analyzers often gave bogus results for patients.

Prosecutors say Holmes knew her invention was not working, but continued to claim to doctors, patients, and investors that her new technology would revolutionize healthcare.

On top of Rosendorff, court documents filed by Holmes’ defense team show that at some point during her trial they will likely also pin the blame on Balwani. 

Defense attorneys wrote that Holmes was “controlled, manipulated, and abused” by Balwani. While Holmes was officially at the top of the power chain as CEO of Theranos, Balwani was really the one in power because he controlled Holmes’ decisions, according to the defense. 

Holmes and Balwani have pleaded not guilty to fraud and conspiracy. Balwani will be put on trial separately next year.

Sunny Balwani
Former Theranos COO Ramesh “Sunny” Balwani (Getty Images)

For Holmes’ trial, will Balwani get on the stand to testify against his ex-girlfriend? 

“Probably not,” Hagan said. “He’s charged separately and he can always claim Fifth Amendment. They can’t make him take the witness stand in this case.”

The Fifth Amendment guarantees that a person cannot be forced by the government to provide self-incriminating information.

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