Holmes ‘Chose Fraud Over Business Failure:’ Trial Closing Arguments

  • Both sides made closing arguments this week in Theranos founder Elizabeth Holmes’ fraud trial.
  • Prosecutors said Holmes “chose to be dishonest” and that her allegations of abuse, which were a key part of her defense, were irrelevant.
  • The defense said “rats flee a sinking ship” but Holmes stayed, noting “that’s who that woman is.”

Lawyers in Elizabeth Holmes’ criminal fraud trial made their final cases about the Theranos founder this week.

Both sides presented their closing arguments in court on Thursday and Friday before handing the case over to the jury to decide Holmes’ fate.

Prosecutors kicked off their arguments by recapping testimony from each of their 29 witnesses. They argued that Holmes saw money dry up at Theranos while its progress languished and had to decide whether to “watch Theranos slowly fail” or defraud investors and patients.

“She chose fraud over business failure. She chose to be dishonest,” said Assistant US attorney Jeffrey Schenk, according to NBC News. “That choice was not only callous, it was criminal.”

Prosecutors revisited Holmes’ bombshell admissions during her seven days of testimony, including that she added pharmaceutical companies’ logos to validation reports without authorization and kept Theranos’ use of modified third-party devices a secret. Holmes has said she wanted to convey that the reports were the result of work done with those pharmaceutical companies and that she withheld information about the use of commercial devices because it was a trade secret.

Prosecutors also tried to convince jurors to disregard Holmes’ allegations that Ramesh “Sunny” Balwani, her ex-boyfriend and Theranos’ former president and COO, abused her. A key tenet of the defense’s strategy has been its argument that Holmes wasn’t fully responsible for her decisions at Theranos because of the abuse she alleges.

“You do not need to decide whether that abuse happened to reach your verdict,” Schenk said, according to The Washington Post. “The case is about false statements made to investors, false statements made to patients.”

The defense has argued throughout the trial that Holmes worked hard to achieve her vision for the company. To this, Assistant US attorney John Bostic responded in his part of the closing statement, “The disease that plagued Theranos wasn’t a lack of effort; it was a lack of honesty.”

“We admire people who set ambitious goals and set out to achieve them,” he said, according to CNBC. “This case went bad for Theranos and Ms. Holmes when she made the other choice, when she refused to accept failure and turned to breaking the law instead.”

Holmes’ attorneys argued that she never intended to deceive anyone. Instead, they say Holmes thought Theranos was in good standing based on information she received from other Theranos employees, such as Balwani and former company scientists, as well as positive feedback from pharmaceutical companies and other parties.

“At the end of the day, the question you’re really asking yourself is, ‘What was Ms. Holmes’ intent?'” said defense attorney Kevin Downey. “Was she trying to defraud people?”

Holmes was in it because she “believed that she built a technology that could change the world,” her attorneys argued.

“Elizabeth Holmes was building a business, not a criminal enterprise,” Downey added. “Her interest was not in making money. It was to bring this technology to the world.”

The defense also urged jurors to remember that Holmes remained at Theranos until it shut down.

“At the first sign of trouble, crooks cash out, criminals cover up, and rats flee a sinking ship,” Downey said, according to BuzzFeed News. “She stayed the whole time, and she went down with that ship when it went down. That’s who that woman is.”

The defense also argued that Holmes was young and naïve while CEO, and that investors shouldered the blame for their losses because of a lack of due diligence, according to The Wall Street Journal. Prosecutors rebuffed both claims, pointing out that Holmes was 26 when the alleged scheme to defraud began and saying, “A scheme to defraud is still a scheme to defraud even if it would only ensnare someone who is less careful than they should be.”

Holmes’ case is now in the jury’s hands. Their deliberations will continue next week.

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