- Elizabeth Holmes, who is pregnant, must report to prison in April next year.
- Prosecutors had asked for 15 years in prison for Holmes.
- She was sentenced to more than 11 years in prison.
Fallen US biotech star Elizabeth Holmes was sentenced Friday to just over 11 years in prison for defrauding investors with her Silicon Valley startup Theranos.
Holmes, who is pregnant, will not have to turn herself in until April of next year, US District Judge Edward Davila ordered in a San Jose, California courtroom.
The Theranos founder was convicted of four counts in January of convincing investors over 15 years that it had developed a revolutionary medical device before the company imploded after a Wall Street Journal investigation.
The case became an indictment against Silicon Valley, and US federal prosecutors sought 15 years in prison for Holmes. She was sentenced to 135 months in prison.
Moments before sentencing, a tearful Holmes told the court, “I stand before you to take responsibility for Theranos. I loved Theranos. It was my life’s work.”
Elizabeth Holmes attracted attention in Silicon Valley with her claims that her now-defunct startup was developing a test kit that could make medical diagnoses using a few drops of blood. source: aap / JOHN G. PERCENTAGE/EPA
“I have been devastated by my failures. Every day for the past years I have felt deep pain for what people have been through because I have let them down.”
But US Attorney Stephanie Hinds argued in a lawsuit that Holmes was “blinded by … ambition”.
Holmes became a star in Silicon Valley when she said her now-defunct startup was perfecting an easy-to-use test kit that could perform a wide range of medical diagnoses with just a few drops of blood.
At the time, Holmes often wore discreet black turtlenecks that evoked her hero, the late Apple icon Steve Jobs.
She sold investors on the idea that her invention would disrupt medical practice, and replaced expensive lab tests with her cheap kits.
Its claims helped Theranos raise nearly $1 billion without generating meaningful revenue.
Holmes’ meteoric rise and rapid demise have been the subject of books, films, and television series that have shaped her story as a cautionary tale about the excesses of the tech industry that blindly followed a charismatic founder.
At one point, Theranos’ board of directors included former US Secretary of Defense James Mattis and former US Secretaries of State, Henry Kissinger and the late George Shultz.
Holmes was sentenced Friday by the same judge who presided over her long trial in a US court in the Silicon Valley city of San Jose.
Her partner, Billy Evans, father of her 15-month-old son, and her mother, Noelle Holmes, hugged her after she was sentenced to prison.
Holmes’ lawyer indicated that she would appeal her conviction.
Attorneys for Holmes, 38, asked for leniency, presenting her as a devoted friend who cares for a young child and has a second child on the way.
Elizabeth Holmes, founder of Theranos, (center) and her parents, Noel Holmes and Christian Holmes, arrive at the Robert F. Beckham Federal Building and United States Courthouse in San Jose on September 1, 2022. source: aap / TNS/Kick USA
This was backed up by 140 letters of support submitted to the court, including from her family, friends and a US senator.
One letter said, “I am confident that on the other side of this, Elizabeth will do wonderful things for society with her talents and boundless passion to change the world for the better.”
This was in sharp contrast to the descriptions given at her trial which portrayed her as an aspiring con artist who harassed her workers.
The Wall Street Journal reported that Holmes’ aunt, who was an early investor in Theranos, called in a letter for the court to pass a strict sentence on her.
Prosecutors want Holmes to pay $800 million in damages to investors including Walmart’s Walton family, Walgreens drugstore chain and media mogul Rupert Murdoch.
A compensation hearing will be scheduled, though Holmes says she has no money to pay.