Defense lawyers say it should come as no surprise that Elizabeth Holmes’ co-defendant and ex-boyfriend, Ramesh “Sunny” Balwani, opened up against her in the opening statement of his criminal fraud trial on Tuesday.
“Sunny Balwani did not start Theranos. He didn’t control Theranos,” Balvani’s lawyer, Steve Cazares, told jurors in the opening argument, The New York Times and other media organizations reported.
Balvani’s description of the role opposed the role of prosecutors, who portrayed the defendant as Holmes’ accomplice in the crime. Balwani, 56, faces a dozen fraud and conspiracy charges related to his role as president and chief operating officer of Holmes’ defunct blood testing company Theranos.
Her trial, now coming out in the same San Jose, California courtroom where a jury convicted Holmes on four fraud counts, in January, brings one of Silicon Valley’s most high-profile cases closer to a solution. Is.
White-collar criminal defense experts say Balwani is somewhat precluded from facing trial after Holmes, who testified that he abused her and influenced her behavior at Theranos.
“The defense in this case begins with losses. It has to dispel both the hype surrounding Holmes’ conviction and Holmes’ own statements against Balwani,” Gregory Gilchrist, professor of law at the University of Toledo College of Law told Yahoo Finance told.
White-collar criminal defense experts say Balvani’s strategy is somewhat predictable, as a case against several defendants opens the door to the finger as to who is responsible for Theranos’ false claims that it took multiple diagnostic tests from a finger prick with blood to a prick. Can do.
“It allows Balwani to avoid some of the blame, and allows him to point the finger at him in making final decisions as to the representation of the public, or investors, or patients,” said Michael Weinstein, a former US prosecutor who presides over, says Cole Schotz, the white-collar Defense and Investigations Department.
SAN JOSE, CALIFORNIA – MARCH 16: Former Theranos COO Ramesh “Sunny” Balwani (2R) arrives with his legal team at Robert F. Peckham US Federal Court on March 16, 2022 in San Jose, California. (Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)
According to Kyle Clark, a criminal defense attorney for Baker Bots, Balvani’s attorney wisely differentiated between Holmes as the sole founder of Theranos and Balvani’s subordinate, who joined five years after its founding. Unlike Holmes, Clark pointed out, Balvani had invested millions in Theranos that were lost after the company exploded. Balwani gave the company a $12 million line of credit before leaving the company after seven years in 2016.
“I think Balvani will emphasize that he risked his money and eventually lost some of it when Theranos ceased operations – that he is an investor who also lost money,” Clark said. he said.
While Balwani benefits from that distinction, Gilchrist notes that the testimony and evidence in Holmes’ case undermine Balwani in certain ways.
“Ultimately, Balwani is entitled to his trial and independent consideration. But everyone in the courtroom knows that this ideal and reality of Holmes’ recent high-profile sentencing is under strain,” Gilchrist said.
Balwani, who made millions as an executive during the dot com boom, began dating Holmes soon after she dropped out of Stanford University at the age of 19. Holmes testified in her defence, Balwani, age 19, to a physically and mentally abusive romantic partner whose behind-the-scenes demands influenced her decisions.
Theranos founder Elizabeth Holmes gets emotional as she is asked to read romantic texts between her and ex-boyfriend Ramesh “Sunny” Balwani in this courtroom sketch on November 30, 2021. Reuters / Vicki Behringer
“I think a jury is going to have problems with the age gap and their experience in the industry instinctively,” Weinstein said. “So they can expect more from him about how to position himself throughout the business.”
Theranos raised nearly $1 billion from investors before collapsing in 2015 in the wake of a blistering Wall Street Journal report revealing that Holmes had publicized, in fact, an array of blood tests from a finger prick of blood. was not operated. Balwani was charged in 2018 with 12 separate felony counts of wire fraud and conspiracy to commit wire fraud – each carrying a maximum prison sentence of 20 years.
Holmes’ jury returned guilty verdicts on four of the 11 charges brought against him, and he will be sentenced on September 26.
Alexis Keenan is a legal reporter for Yahoo Finance. follow alexis on twitter @alexiskwed,
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