Today, Elizabeth Holmes cried on the stand as she recounted being raped at Stanford. It was part of the reason she dropped out of college, she testified. “I decided I was going to build a life by building this company,” she said on the witness stand today. When she started dating Sunny Balwani, her co-defendant who is being tried separately, “he said I was safe now that I had met him.”
Then, she said, he abused and raped her.
Holmes, the former CEO of Theranos, is standing trial for 11 counts of wire fraud and conspiracy to commit wire fraud. Recordings of Holmes lying to investors and journalists have been played to the courtroom. Since the opening statements, we knew she was going to try to shift blame especially onto Balwani, the company’s former president. Balwani’s lawyer has previously contested Holmes’ allegations of abuse.
Witnesses earlier in the trial said that they saw Balwani defer to Holmes. They also said that in meetings where both were present, Holmes did most of the talking and ran the meetings. James Mattis, a former Theranos board member, testified that Holmes was “in charge” of Theranos. Lisa Peterson, who worked on the DeVos investment in Theranos, said her team didn’t do comprehensive research on Theranos because they didn’t want to “upset Elizabeth.”
Holmes said today that Balwani controlled her behind the scenes: what she ate, how she dressed, and how she talked. She claimed he texted her while they were in meetings together to criticize her. We saw a document in what Holmes identified as Balwani’s handwriting that she said contained instructions for her. He told her she was like “a monkey trying to fly a spaceship.”
Balwani met Holmes when she was 18. He was 37. She understood he was successful, that he’d worked with Bill Gates at Microsoft. When she went to Stanford, they kept in touch via email. In March 2004, Holmes dropped out of school. She said she spoke to Balwani about making a business out of a patent application she’d filed. She moved in with him in 2005.
Holmes didn’t put an exact date on the beginning of the alleged abuse. But Balwani “told me that I didn’t know what I was doing in business, that my convictions were wrong, that he was astonished at my mediocrity and if I followed my instincts I was going to fail,” she claimed. He said that “who I was was never going to be a person who would succeed in life or in business, so I needed to kill that person and become a new Elizabeth.”
If she wanted to be a successful entrepreneur, Balwani told her, then Holmes needed to spend all her time on the business, and only spend time with people who would make the business successful, she said. “I needed to be working seven days a week and be in the office seven days a week.” This meant spending less time with her family.
Holmes’ lawyer moved into evidence a bizarre handwritten document. Holmes said she recognized the handwriting as Balwani’s. (It was distinctive, particularly around the capital letter “I.”) The…
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