Holmes to Remain in Prison While Appeal Plays Out

Pictured: Elizabeth Holmes/Courtesy Yichuan Cao/Nu

Pictured: Elizabeth Holmes/Courtesy Yichuan Cao/Nu

A California judge denied Elizabeth Holmes’ motion for release pending appeal, ruling that the former Theranos CEO must serve her prison sentence while she appeals her guilty verdict.

Pictured: Elizabeth Holmes/Courtesy Yichuan Cao/NurPhoto/Getty Images

Monday, a California judge denied Elizabeth Holmes’ motion for release pending appeal, ruling that the former Theranos CEO must serve her prison sentence while she appeals her guilty verdict.

District Judge Edward Davila upheld the court’s previous surrender date in his order. Holmes’ must turn herself in by 2 p.m. on April 27.

The decision comes nearly five months after Holmes was sentenced to more than 11 years in federal prison. In January 2022, a jury found Holmes guilty of three counts of wire fraud and one count of conspiracy to commit wire fraud. In total, Holmes defrauded Theranos investors of nearly $1 billion.

The case against Holmes was brought by the Securities and Exchange Commission in March 2018, which alleged that the former CEO, together with Theranos’ ex-president Ramesh “Sunny” Balwani, solicited more than $700 million from investors “through an elaborate, years-long fraud” involving exaggerated claims about the company’s science and financial performance.

Theranos was founded in 2003 when Holmes was still a 19-year-old Stanford dropout. The start-up promised to transform the blood-testing landscape with a device that could accurately run several medical tests using relatively low-volume samples and at a fraction of the usual cost. At its peak, Theranos held a market value of around $10 billion.

Holmes’ trial officially began in September 2021 after being delayed due to the pandemic. Former employees testified that Theranos’ technology had always been problematic and that the company “frequently” manipulated data to make its lead product more attractive to investors.

In 2016, an investigation found that Theranos voided two years of blood testing data it had collected through a partnership with Walgreens. This led to several lawsuits from patients who had used these results for medical procedures.

Holmes’ team filed the motion for release pending appeal in December 2022, a month after her sentencing.

In his Monday decision, Davila noted that because Holmes no longer held a position of influence, she was unlikely to be a danger to her community. Pointing to her two very young children – and the fact that the court has her passport – Davila also deemed her low flight risk.

Nonetheless, Davila concluded there wasn’t enough compelling evidence to allow Holmes to remain free on bond. At the same time, her lawyers tried to persuade an appeals court that alleged misconduct during her four-month trial led to an unjust verdict.

However, Davila pointed out that Holmes’ team had failed to raise a “substantial question of law or fact” that could reverse a previous court order or merit a new trial.

In her appeal, Holmes had questioned evidence-related decisions that, she argued, were central to her conviction. These include allegations of improper admission of testimonies and specific pieces of evidence.

Davila disagreed, writing that “these disputes do not directly pertain to the conduct for which Ms. Holmes was convicted.”

Even if the appellate court finds that evidence decisions were erroneous, it would be unlikely to reverse Holmes’ conviction, especially given the breadth of evidence showing her misrepresentations to investors.

Tristan is an independent science writer based in Metro Manila, with more than eight years of experience writing about medicine, biotech and science. He can be reached at tristan.manalac@biospace.com, tristan@tristanmanalac.com or on LinkedIn.