Elizabeth Holmes Says Former Theranos COO Abused and Sexually Assaulted Her

On the stand in her fraud trial, Holmes testified that her former business and romantic partner tried to control her.

Nov 30 2021, 4:50pm

When Elizabeth Holmes served as CEO of Theranos, she sold herself as an utterly confident, trailblazing female entrepreneur. But on the stand in her fraud trial Monday, Holmes tried to torpedo that narrative. Instead, Holmes said, she spent years under the thumb of Ramesh “Sunny” Balwani, Theranos’ COO and Holmes’ secret romantic partner.

Holmes’ much-heralded decision to drop out of Stanford was also not solely because of her devotion to Theranos, which crumbled after its promises to revolutionize health care turned out to be too good to be true. Instead, Holmes said she left Stanford in part for another reason: She was raped. 

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“He said that I was safe, now that I had met him,” Holmes recalled Balwani telling her after she disclosed the rape, CNN reported.

In emotional testimony, Holmes accused Balwani of emotionally and physically abusing her, including through forcing her into sex. Holmes said Balwani dictated details of her life, including the food she ate and the sleep she got. He also allegedly criticized her, telling her she was mediocre and bound to fail if she followed her instincts.

“He would force me to have sex with him when I didn’t want to because he would say that he wanted me to know he still loved me,” Holmes told jurors as she cried, according to the New York Times

Holmes is facing multiple charges of wire fraud and conspiracy to commit wire fraud, which could land her behind bars for decades. But prosecutors are seeking to prove that Holmes intended to defraud investors and patients when she ran Theranos, which shut down in 2018. Holmes’ defense, that Balwani effectively controlled her, could blow up prosecutors’ plans.

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The two met when Holmes was just 18. Balwani, a former software executive, was two decades her senior. He told her that, in order to succeed, she had to “become a new Elizabeth,” Holmes said.

“He impacted everything about who I was,” Holmes testified, the Washington Post reported. “And I don’t fully understand that.”

Holmes did admit that she chose to add pharmaceutical companies’ logos to a report to investors, without the companies’ permission. She also said that Balwani did not force her to make statements to investors, journalists, and others.

It wasn’t until 2016 that Holmes moved out of the home she shared with Balwani, , she said, after an inspection found severe issues with Theranos’ lab. That inspection led Holmes to doubt whether Theranos’ technology worked, the former CEO said.

Balwani has denied ever abusing Holmes, as well as pled not guilty to fraud charges. He is expected to go on trial early next year.

Tagged:

sexual assault, trial, Theranos, #metoo

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