A jury is set on Tuesday to hear closing arguments in the trial of Ramesh “Sunny” Balwani, the former Theranos official charged with teaming up with his secret lover, CEO Elizabeth Holmes, to carry out a massive fraud.
Holmes was convicted on four counts of investor defrauding and acquitted on four counts for allegedly deceiving patients who had undergone Theranos blood tests. The three-month testimony and evidence mirrored the case against Holmes in a separate trial last year. She is free on $500,000 bail but could face up to 20 years in prison. Balwani faces the same sentence if he is convicted.
Holmes, 38, is currently awaiting sentencing in September.
Lawyers for Balwani, 57, have portrayed him as a well-meaning investor and entrepreneur who became the chief operating officer of Theranos in 2010 and was subsequently thrown into a scam by Holmes. She later dumped him as her lover and business partner in 2016 as Theranos began to unravel.
Before that split, Balwani raised $15 million of his own money to help support Theranos when Holmes brought him on board as her top lieutenant while they lived clandestinely. Balwani’s investment in Theranos was worth about $500 million on paper — a stake his attorney’s jurors said he never sold. It became worthless when the company collapsed.
Prosecutors, meanwhile, have portrayed Balwani as a ruthless henchman who helped Holmes defraud investors. At one point, they claimed, Balwani oversaw the Theranos lab that covered up serious flaws in the company’s blood-testing technology that could have put patients’ lives at risk.
Holmes’ bold claims for Theranos helped make her a Silicon Valley star — a wealthy one, too, with a $4.5 billion paper fortune based on the company’s success in fundraising and closing business deals based on Holmes’ promise that Theranos would revolutionize healthcare. Holmes boasted that the company had developed technology that could detect more than 200 potential health problems with a few drops of blood taken with a finger prick.
Balwani began dating Holmes around the same time she started Theranos and began giving her business advice based on his past success, including selling a technology startup that made him rich. Their relationship was a focal point in a Hulu TV series, “The Dropout,” about the rise and fall of Holmes, which was released shortly before the start of the trial, complicating efforts to pick an unbiased jury.
During her trial, Holmes took the stand and, at one point, tearfully accused Balwani of being a dominant figure who subjected her to emotional and sexual abuse. One of Balwani’s other lawyers vehemently denied these allegations during Holmes’ trial. Balwani’s lawyers have urged jurors in the current attempt to throw away everything they’ve previously read or heard about Holmes’ charges.
There had been speculation that Holmes could return to court to testify against Balwani during his trial, but it never happened. Unlike Holmes, Balwani chose not to testify in his own defense during his trial.