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Elizabeth Holmes emotionally triggered by prosecutors

SAN JOSE, Calif. –

One-time businessman Elizabeth Holmes, being questioned by prosecutors, struggled on Tuesday to recall key events that led her to face criminal fraud charges for allegedly fleeing investors and customers of her failed blood-testing startup Theranos.

Her cross-examination began the day after she shared painfully vivid memories of being accused of abuse by her ex and business partner, Sunny Balwani.

Amidst the hazy recollections, Holmes wept in the witness stand after the federal prosecutor who questioned her asked to read aloud some of the emotional passages she and Balwani exchanged over a five-year period when they were run Theranos and live together in stealth. romantic relationship.

“You are a tigress and a warrior of God. You are extraordinary,” Balwani whispered to Holmes in a 2015 document displayed in court on Tuesday. Holmes quickly responded with this line: “Coming from my tiger means the whole universe to me.”

While poring over old texts, Holmes occasionally dabbed at his eyes and wiped his nose with a tissue. The jury watched and listened along with a packed courtroom that included someone who had trained Holmes with a pair of binoculars from the backseat.

The film begins the day after Holmes identified himself as a victim of abuse and control over Balwani while they were romantically involved from 2005 to 2016. Balwani, 56, is also the chief executive. of Theranos from 2009 to 2016 while Holmes, 37, CEO and controlling shareholder.

As part of her testimony, Holmes said she was raped at Stanford – a traumatic experience that she claims Balwani exploited to control everything from her diet to her friendships.

Both Holmes and Balwani are now battling criminal charges of tricking investors and patients into believing Theranos had invented a device that could scan hundreds of potential health problems with just a few drops of blood. After raising nearly $1 billion, Theranos collapsed amid revelations that the revolutionary technology she was peddling was a terrible flaw.

Holmes’ trial, which began in early September, is now reaching its climax. Holmes will return to the stand on December 7. Her testimony could end that day, raising the possibility that jury deliberations could begin next weekend.

Balwani, who is being tried separately, is expected to appear in court early next year. His lawyer, Jeffrey Coopersmith, denied Holmes’ allegation of “intimate partner abuse”. Coopersmith on Tuesday also told US District Judge Edward Davila that Balwani would assert his Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination if he was called to testify in Holmes’ trial.

Although Holmes has stood firm since November 19, Tuesday marked the first opportunity for federal prosecutors to try her under oath.

Robert Leach, the government attorney facing Holmes, made no mention of Holmes’s alleged rape or her testimony about Balwani berating her, sometimes with obscene words. Instead, he used the roughly 12,000 text messages sent between Holmes and Balwani to counter her suggestion that they had a toxic rather than romantic relationship.

At one point, Leach asked Holmes if she would be surprised if the word “love” appeared 594 times in government documents and the word “love” was used 105 times. “No,” said Holmes with a small smile.

But Holmes spent much of Tuesday answering “I don’t remember” and “I don’t know” to Leach’s questions about key incidents in the startup’s history. She claims to forget so often that Leach made the phrase “see if I can refresh your memory” a popular refrain as he handed her document after document related to it. regarding allegations of fraud.

Leach seemed intent on proving that the Holmes she knew she had falsely told investors and Walgreens, which briefly used Theranos’ blood tests at its pharmacies.

Holmes’ apparent forgetfulness contrasts sharply with her clear recall of her interactions with Balwani – some of them dating back more than a decade.

But she also seems to have reflected on her behavior at Theranos. She expressed regret over how she responded to the concerns of two former employees and her attempt to prevent the 2015 publication of the Wall Street Journal that led to Theranos’ downfall.

“I couldn’t say more strongly that the way we handled the Wall Street Journal process was a disaster. We really messed up,” said Holmes.

John Carreyrou, the reporter who wrote the Wall Street Journal story and a book about the rise and fall of Theranos, sat in the back of the courtroom during Holmes’ moment of horror while taking notes for a podcast he was working on. about the trial.

Holmes also admitted she was hasty in dismissing warnings from two former employees, Erika Cheung and Tyler Shultz, who reported that Theranos’ blood-testing device – named Edison – was giving results. Incorrect results can endanger the patient’s health.

Cheung’s Holmes, who left Theranos in exasperation, said after concluding that her complaints had been ignored.

Shultz, grandson of former Secretary of State and Theranos board member George Shultz, also resigned from Theranos in 2015 under similar circumstances.

Both Cheung and Shultz became whistleblowers and provided information to Carreyrou about his Journal story. After discovering Cheung and Shultz were talking to Carreyrou, Theranos attorney David Boies sent letters to both men threatening to sue them. Holmes on Tuesday insisted she was trying to protect trade secrets.

The tactics have dented Holmes’ relationship with George Shultz, who initially favors her even after his nephew begins to warn about Theranos’ technology.

George Shultz, who died earlier this year, became depressed after Theranos sent an attorney to pressure Tyler to sign undisclosed documents at his home in May 2015, causing he called Holmes and complained that it was “one of my worst things. According to Leach.

Holmes tells Leach that she doesn’t remember exactly what George Shultz said during that conversation. “I remember George was very angry,” she said.

Holmes could face up to 20 years in prison if convicted.

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