Elizabeth Holmes is one person who might actually be relieved about the coronavirus pandemic. As a result of the virus, Homes — the founder of Theranos — is evading her trial date, which will be postponed until October 27, with the potential for it to be pushed to 2021 if necessary. That’s one way to put off a potential 20-year prison sentence.
Attorneys for Holmes filed a memo this week, according to CNBC, outlining the risks of conducting the high-profile trial amid the public health crisis. “The defence, jurors, and witnesses will all enter the courthouse through crowds of onlookers who have often approached and even touched counsel and the defendant during entry to the building,” Holmes’ lawyers wrote. They also noted that if anyone in the trial contracted the virus “the risk of a mistrial would be substantial.”
A judge agreed, saying, “We need to make sure the environment is safe for all parties, including the jury that’s called to hear the matter.” Her trial had originally been scheduled to begin in July.
Holmes became a media darling for being the youngest self-made woman billionaire in the U.S. The company she founded in 2003, Theranos, was worth $9 billion at one point, and promised to run hundreds of tests off of one or two drops of blood. They partnered with Walgreens and Safeway, who adopted those tests for hoards of people in the U.S. Holmes' star was quickly on the rise: she gave a TED Talk and was profiled in The New Yorker. And then, Wall Street Journal reporter John Carreyrou exposed the entire thing as a fraud.
It didn’t take long for everything to come crumbling down. Holmes and her partner, Ramesh “Sunny” Balwani were charged with fraud in March 2018, and indicted on nine counts of wire fraud and conspiracy to commit wire fraud. Each face a maximum sentence of 20 years if found guilty, though the two are being tried separately.
Public interest in the Holmes story was renewed last year with the release of the HBO documentary, The Inventor. But people have been eating her story up since her deception was revealed and there have been numerous books, podcasts, and films about Theranos and Holmes’ deception, and numerous stories about her fake voice or her Steve Jobs-esque uniform of black turtlenecks. For now, at least, the saga will continue — with a slight delay to prioritise public health.