Ex-Theranos CEO Elizabeth Holmes takes the witness stand in her fraud trial Holmes admitted Tuesday that she put Pfizer letterhead on a document for potential business partners and investors without the pharma giant's consent. She's charged with duping investors and patients.

Ex-Theranos CEO Elizabeth Holmes takes the witness stand in her fraud trial

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STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

Lawyers say it is always risky when people accused of crimes testify in their own defense. Elizabeth Holmes is taking that risk. The founder of the blood testing company Theranos is accused of wire fraud and conspiracy connected to allegedly founding a successful tech company on lies, promoting blood testing that rarely worked. NPR's Bobby Allyn has been in the courthouse for the trial. Hey there, Bobby.

BOBBY ALLYN, BYLINE: Morning, Steve.

INSKEEP: What are you learning as Elizabeth Holmes talks?

ALLYN: Yeah, so going into Holmes' testimony, prosecutors alleged that Theranos sent these forged documents to potential investors and business partners of Theranos, including retail chains like Walgreens. And these documents were reports supporting Theranos technology written on the letterhead of drug companies like Pfizer. Now, Steve, the big problem here is Pfizer wanted nothing to do with Theranos. Elizabeth Holmes said from the stand that she personally placed drug company logos, like Pfizer's logo, on these documents, and she said she did it to a knowledge past work Theranos did with Pfizer. And look; Theranos did have some small contracts with Pfizer, but they never consented to these letters.

INSKEEP: I'm trying to figure out why you would get up on the stand to testify to this. She's saying, I faked documents, in effect. How did she justify that?

ALLYN: Well, the prosecutors kind of got her here. So she did concede this, right? Holmes said, you know, she never intended to deceive anyone, and that's key here because prosecutors need to prove intent in order to convict. But she said, you know, she wishes she handled the whole thing a little differently. And I got to really underscore here that, you know, Holmes even admitting that is a really big deal because her core defense, this - since she's got on the stand was - it has been basically to point the finger at other people, medical experts on the board of directors, lab scientists, her deputy at Theranos. She's suggesting that everyone at the company except for her was responsible for the company's failures.

INSKEEP: Except that she faked the letterhead, she says in her own testimony. How does that revelation fit in with the broader prosecution story of what Holmes did?

ALLYN: Yeah, prosecutors say Holmes ran an operation full of deception, not just this letterhead. It goes far beyond that, according to prosecutors. And, you know, that basically this company was struggling, and she allegedly misrepresented the financials of the company. She misrepresented what these blood tests were capable of. You know, prosecutors played for a jury recordings of Holmes bragging about partnerships that never panned out. I mean, they even had former Defense Secretary Jim Mattis go on the stand and talk about how he thought Theranos was about to develop blood tests that could save lives on the battlefield. That never happened. Prosecutors say for years Elizabeth Holmes put on a charm, lots of charm. You know, she puffed up the company and made investors lose millions of dollars and provided faulty or just flat-out wrong tests to patients. Like, there was one woman who said that a Theranos test said she was having a miscarriage, Steve, when in fact she was really carrying a healthy baby.

INSKEEP: So what goes next in this trial?

ALLYN: Yeah, so the jury so far has only heard Holmes answer pretty easy questions from her own lawyer, but soon that is going to change because federal prosecutors will have their turn to pepper Holmes with much tougher questions. That could get dramatic. And, you know, whether her credibility survives that grilling, you know, that could have a big influence on how the jury feels going into deliberations over the fate of Holmes. Of course, she's at this trial because she's long maintained her innocence, but if she is convicted, she could face, you know, some pretty hefty prison time here.

INSKEEP: Now she's trying to tell her story. NPR's Bobby Allyn, thanks.

ALLYN: Thanks.

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