SAN JOSE, Calif. (KRON) — The criminal fraud trials for Elizabeth Holmes and Ramesh “Sunny” Balwani were strikingly similar. Federal prosecutors hauled in many of the same witnesses, including ex-Theranos employees, wealthy investors, journalists, and whistle-blowers, to illuminate a co-conspiracy between the two Silicon Valley executives.
Holmes and her ex-boyfriend were charged with the same 12 counts of fraud and conspiracy, but their trials were separated.
One jury found Holmes guilty in January of defrauding Theranos investors. She will be sentenced in September by U.S. District Judge Edward Davila and faces up to 20 years in prison.
A second jury now must decide Balwani’s guilt or innocence. The 57-year-old business man’s defense team rested its case earlier this week, and closing arguments are set to begin Tuesday.
One glaring difference between the two Theranos trials was that Holmes testified for six days on the witness stand in her own defense, while Balwani chose to remain silent.
Holmes founded her biotech startup company at age 19 and was once America’s youngest self-made billionaire. She wooed wealthy investors to pour millions of dollars into Theranos by lying about the capabilities of her company’s blood testing technology.
Prosecutors said Holmes and Balwani put patients’ lives in danger with false blood test results.
Balwani’s attorneys only called on two witnesses to testify in his defense: technical consultant Richard Sonnier, and Tracy Wooten, a physician who sent more than 100 patients to Theranos.
During Holmes’ trial, she accused her longtime former boyfriend of abusing, controlling, and manipulating her. While Holmes was the famous young face of Theranos, Balwani was calling the shots from behind the scenes, she claimed.
Holmes testified that Balwani would get very angry, constantly criticized her, and said, “If you follow your instincts, you will fail.”
Balwani’s trial began in March. Prosecutors showed the jury private text messages that he wrote to Holmes, including one reading, “I am responsible for everything at Theranos.”
The defense argued that Holmes was in charge. Defense Attorney Stephen Cazares told the jury, “Sunny did not start Theranos, he did not control Theranos, he did not have final decision making authorities.”
Holmes founded her startup in Palo Alto in 2003, assembled an illustrious board of directors, and forged partnerships with pharmaceutical companies, all before Balwani joined the company in 2009, according to the defense.
“Sunny committed no crime, no fraud, and never intended to deceive or cheat anybody. Not investors, and not patients,” Cazares said.
When the biotech company was on the brink of imploding and its technology flaws were exposed in 2016, Holmes fired Balwani.
Balwani owned Theranos shares that equated to half a billion dollars, prosecutors said. Holmes owned even more shares, valued at $4.5 billion.
“The scheme brought them fame, adoration, and comparison to companies like Microsoft and other unicorn technology companies,” Assistant U.S. Attorney Robert Leach said.