elizabeth holmes He entered a Texas prison on Tuesday, bringing to its final stage the case that uncovered the blood test scam at the heart of his startup Theranos.
Thus began the 11-year sentence prison for the shocked-looking woman who broke into the “tech man” culture to become one of Silicon Valley’s most celebrated businesswomen, only to be exposed as a fraud. Along the way, Holmes has become a symbol of the shameless hype that often saturates startup culture.
However, questions remain about his real intentions, so many that even the federal judge who presided over his trial seemed baffled. And Holmes’ defenders still question whether the punishment was too severe for the crime.
At 39, it seems more likely that Holmes will be remembered as the Icarus of Silicon Valley: a high-flying businesswoman who burned with reckless ambition and whose odyssey culminated in convictions for fraud and racketeering.
Her motives are still a bit of a mystery, and some advocates say federal prosecutors have unfairly targeted her in her fervor to bring down one of the most prominent practitioners of the “fake it ’til you make it” philosophy: the brand self-promotional technology that often sometimes veers towards exaggeration and outright lies to raise funds.
Holmes begins to pay the price for his deception on Tuesday, when begins the sentence that will separate her from her two children, a boy whose birth in July 2021 delayed the start of her trial and a three-month-old daughter conceived after her conviction.
Holmes was supposed to be incarcerated in Bryan, Texas, about 100 miles (160 kilometers) northwest of her hometown of Houston. The judge who sentenced Holmes recommended that prison, but authorities have not publicly disclosed where she was being held.
His many detractors say he deserves to go to jail for offering an alleged new technology he repeatedly bragged about that can rapidly detect hundreds of diseases and other health problems from just a few drops of blood taken from a finger prick.
The technology has never worked as promised. Instead, Theranos tests produced results so unreliable they could have endangered patients’ lives, one of the most cited reasons why she deserved to be prosecuted and convicted.
Before these lies were exposed in a series of explosive Wall Street Journal articles starting in October 2015, Holmes raised nearly $1 billion from a roster of savvy investors, including Oracle co-founder Larry Ellison and Rupert Murdoch, the media mogul. It was the deception of those investors that led to his prison sentences and the payment of a $452 million restitution bill.
At one point Holmes’ stake in Theranos catapulted his paper wealth to $4.5 billion. She never sold any of her shares in the company, although the trial evidence left no doubt that she reveled in the trappings of fame and fortune, so much so that she and the father of her children, William “Billy” Evans, lived in a palatial Silicon Valley home during the trial.
The theory that Holmes was conducting an intricate scam was supported by court evidence documenting his efforts to prevent publication of the Wall Street Journal investigation. That campaign forced John Carreyrou, the reporter responsible for those explosive reports, to appear in court and sit in Holmes’ field of vision as he took the witness stand.
Holmes also approved surveillance measures aimed at intimidating Theranos employees that helped expose fraud involving its blood testing technology. Among the informants was Tyler Shultz, the nephew of former Secretary of State George Shultz, whom Holmes befriended and convinced him to join Theranos’ board of directors. Tyler Shultz was so agitated by Holmes’ attempts to silence him that he began to sleep with a knife under his pillow, according to a heartbreaking statement from his father, Alex, upon sentencing him.
Holmes’ supporters insist that she always had good intentions and was unfairly scapegoated by the Justice Department. They insist she just implemented the same hype tactics used by many other tech executives, including Elon Musk, who has repeatedly made misleading claims about the capabilities of Tesla’s self-driving cars.
According to those advocates, Holmes was unfairly singled out for being a woman who briefly outshone the men usually in the Silicon Valley spotlight, and that the process turned her into a modern-day version of Hester. Prynne, the protagonist of the novel. “, 1850.
Holmes steadfastly maintained his innocence during seven riveting days of testimony in his defense, a spectacle that forced people to line up from midnight to secure one of the few dozen available seats in the San Jose courtroom.
One memorable day, Holmes said she never got over the trauma of being raped while studying at Stanford University. She then said she was subjected to a sustained pattern of emotional and sexual abuse by her former lover and Theranos co-conspirator, Ramesh “Sunny” Balwani, suggesting that her suffocating control was clouding her thoughts.
Balwani’s attorney, Jeffrey Coopersmith, denied those allegations during the trial. During Balwani’s subsequent trial, Coopersmith made an unsuccessful attempt to present his client as Holmes’s pawn.
Balwani, 57, is now serving a nearly 13-year prison sentence for fraud and conspiracy, following a trial that began two months after Holmes’ death. He is currently serving a nearly 13-year sentence in a Southern California prison.
When it came time to sentence the then-pregnant Holmes in November, U.S. District Judge Edward Davila seemed as baffled as everyone about why she did what she did.
“This is a case of fraud where a glamorous company has gone ahead with its high hopes and expectations, only to be met with falsehoods, misrepresentations, arrogance and lies,” Dávila lamented as Holmes stood before him. “I guess now we can step back and look at that and think what is the pathology of fraud?”
Judge also recalled the days when Silicon Valley consisted mostly of orchards grown by immigrants. This was before the land was handed over to the technological boom that began in 1939, when William Hewlett and David Packard founded a company that bore their last names in a one-car garage in Palo Alto, the same city where Theranos was headquartered. .
“You will remember the wonderful innovation of those two guys in that little garage,” Dávila reminded everyone in the courtroom.
“No exotic cars or luxurious lifestyles, just the desire to create something that benefits society through honest and hard work. And that, I hope, would be how the history and legacy and practice of Silicon Valley would continue.”
Mary Ortiz is a seasoned journalist with a passion for world events. As a writer for News Rebeat, she brings a fresh perspective to the latest global happenings and provides in-depth coverage that offers a deeper understanding of the world around us.