Sunny Balwani's Trial Could Be Key for Elizabeth Holmes

If he is found guilty, she could potentially use that when arguing for a lighter sentence
By Kate Seamons,  Newser Staff
Posted Mar 9, 2022 9:40 AM CST
How Sunny Balwani's Trial Could Help Elizabeth Holmes
Elizabeth Holmes, center, leaves federal court after the verdict in San Jose, Calif., Monday, Jan. 3, 2022.   (AP Photo/Nic Coury)

(Newser) – Elizabeth Holmes was found guilty in January of defrauding Theranos investors. Now begins the process of determining whether Theranos' former president and COO is guilty of similar crimes. Jury selection starts Wednesday in the trial of Ramesh "Sunny" Balwani, who also had a years-long romantic relationship with Holmes, who is nearly 20 years his junior. Balwani has pleaded not guilty to crimes including wire fraud and conspiracy to defraud investors. Open arguments will likely begin in one week, and the 56-year-old's trial will wrap up well before Holmes is sentenced in late September.

The Guardian's take: "Balwani’s trial is almost certain to generate less spectacle than Holmes' ... but his case could still have wide-ranging impacts on Silicon Valley and investing-related regulations." Writing for Bloomberg, Joel Rosenblatt highlights a different angle: that should Balwani be found guilty, that could be good news for Holmes. He explains that such an outcome would allow Holmes to argue ahead of her sentencing that the blame should be directed to Balwani—allowing her to again try to paint him as a manipulator and the mastermind of the fraud—and make the case for a lighter sentence.

Holmes accused Balwani of emotional and sexual abuse, though the Guardian notes the "domestic violence defense was ultimately less prominent than initially anticipated," and it's unclear whether Balwani's lawyers will acknowledge those allegations in court. As for whether the outcome of Holmes' trial will help or hurt Balwani, the New York Times reports legal experts seem to agree that prosecutors will have a leg up. As one former federal prosecutor puts it, "The government has had the opportunity to do a full run, so they will have learned what worked and what didn't." Those experts also suspect he won't take the stand; the Times notes that while Holmes was convincing as a charismatic visionary and sympathetic on the stand, "Balwani, like most of dull humanity, possessed no such gifts." (Read more Sunny Balwani stories.)

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