Theranos' Elizabeth Holmes Goes On Trial On Fraud Charges Holmes and her former business partner and ex-boyfriend, Ramesh "Sunny" Balwani, have pleaded not guilty to charges of defrauding investors and patients of the blood-testing company Theranos.

Elizabeth Holmes Promised Miracles By A Finger Prick. Her Fraud Trial Starts Tuesday

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Elizabeth Holmes' trial starts today. She's the founder of the blood testing company Theranos, which imploded in a spectacular corporate scandal. Prosecutors say she misled investors and patients and that she deserves to go to prison. Elizabeth Holmes says she's innocent. Here's NPR's Bobby Allyn.

BOBBY ALLYN, BYLINE: She wore black turtlenecks, spoke in a deep voice and was seen as the next Steve Jobs. In 2015, everyone was celebrating Elizabeth Holmes, including former President Bill Clinton, who joined her on stage for an event.


BILL CLINTON: You founded this company 12 years ago, right? Tell them how old you were.


ALLYN: A Stanford dropout, Holmes dazzled Silicon Valley with the promise of a blood testing company that could revolutionize laboratory medicine. She said Theranos technology could screen patients for hundreds of diseases with just a finger prick of blood. Here's how former Fox News anchor Adam Shapiro ended an interview with her at the time.


ADAM SHAPIRO: There are people in this world who revolutionize our lives - Coco Chanel, Steve Jobs, Bill Gates, Walt Disney and Elizabeth Holmes. Mark my words.

ALLYN: But the promises fell apart after a series of stories from journalist John Carreyrou in The Wall Street Journal. The reporting showed that Theranos wasn't using some new breakthrough equipment. Instead, it relied mostly on traditional blood-processing machines. And Carreyrou found results had a pattern of being flawed and inaccurate.

JOHN CARREYROU: There's an expression that's become synonymous with the business culture of Silicon Valley, which is fake it until you make it. And she thought it was OK to behave that way.

ALLYN: But despite a $9 billion valuation, Theranos began to sink. Walgreens stores in Arizona and California stopped letting patients get Theranos tests, and expansion plans were scrapped. Holmes was defiant, taking to CNBC wearing her signature black turtleneck.


HOLMES: This is what happens when you work to change things. And first they think you're crazy, then they fight you, and then all of a sudden you change the world.

ALLYN: But federal prosecutors say she wasn't changing the world, but committing a fraud, pushing a technology that gave false results to patients and left investors holding the bag. In 2015, investor Eileen Lepera remembers talking to a big-name venture capitalist.

EILEEN LEPERA: He did say to me that he thinks it was the next Apple and that I should buy as much as I could get.

ALLYN: She put in more than $100,000 - more than she's ever invested.

LEPERA: Everybody kind of assumed that someone else had done due diligence and that these machines, in fact, did work. So it was a con on a grand scale.

ALLYN: Holmes' legal team sees it differently. In newly unsealed court documents, Holmes' lawyers say she was physically and emotionally abused by her ex-boyfriend Sunny Balwani. He was a top executive at Theranos. He's also charged but will have a separate trial next year. The documents say Holmes plans to argue that the abuse altered her mental state during the period of the alleged fraud. Holmes' attorneys also said in filings that she's likely to take the stand herself to testify under oath.

Well, UC Davis law professor Thomas Joo says if the jury doesn't think the government has enough evidence to show Holmes had criminal intent, she could be acquitted.

THOMAS JOO: They may have thought that she mistakenly had too much faith in her product. She said false things, but if you say them unintentionally, it's not a crime.

ALLYN: On the prosecution witness list are big-name backers of Theranos, like Rupert Murdoch and Henry Kissinger, but also patients who were wrongly diagnosed with being HIV-positive and a woman who was incorrectly told her healthy pregnancy had miscarried. Investor Lepera says she and the hundreds of other people who poured money into Theranos are hoping the jury convicts Holmes.

LEPERA: I would feel good if justice was served. I pretty much gave up on getting that money back years ago. But, of course, it would be wonderful if it happened.

ALLYN: The trial's expected to last four months.

Bobby Allyn, NPR News, San Jose.


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