Theranos founder Elizabeth Holmes sentenced to 11 years in prison

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Elizabeth Holmes has been sentenced to 11 years and three months in prison for defrauding investors of her blood testing startup Theranos.

Judge Edward Davila imposed a sentence of 135 months in prison, to be followed by three years of supervised release.

Holmes, who is heavily pregnant with her second child, tearfully apologised for her role in the collapse of the Silicon Valley firm — the first time she has admitted responsibility.

“I am devastated by my failings. I have felt deep pain for what people went through, because I failed them,” Holmes said.

Prosecutor Jeff Schenk said the Theranos founder craved media attention and a lavish lifestyle and called on the judge to impose a lengthy sentence as a deterrent to others.

“The attention desired by Ms Holmes fuelled the fraud,” he told the court.

Defense attorney Kevin Downey said Holmes had “good intentions” and there was no evidence that she had been by greed.

“Year in and year out, Elizabeth Holmes had the opportunity to become a very wealthy woman,” he said.

“Hundreds of millions of dollars. Year after year, she declined the offers.”

She was “let down by her support network”, Mr Downey said.

Prosecutors had asked the judge to sentence the 38-year-old to 15 years in prison and that she pay $800m in restitution for defrauding investors.

Her lawyers argued that Holmes deserves more lenient treatment as a well-meaning entrepreneur who is now a devoted mother with another child on the way.

Judge Davila described the case as “so troubling on so many levels”.

“The tragedy of this case is Ms Holmes is brilliant, she had creative ideas. She’s big thinker.

“She was moving into an industry that was dominated by, let’s face it, male ego,” Judge Davila told the court, according to Mercury News reporter Ethan Baron.

“Failure is normal. But failure by fraud is not OK.”

Holmes founded Theranos aged 19 in 2003 after dropping out of Stanford University. She said a fear of needles had led her to invent the Edison blood-testing machine.

The company quickly attracted high-profile investors including Larry Ellison, Rupert Murdoch and the DeVos family, and was valued at $9bn at its peak.

Although evidence submitted during her trial showed the blood tests produced wildly unreliable results that could have steered patients toward the wrong treatments, Holmes claimed she didn’t stop trying to perfect the technology until Theranos collapsed in 2018.

Holmes was convicted in January of three felony counts of wire fraud and one felony count of conspiracy to commit fraud.

New Jersey Senator Cory Booker was among 140 friends, family and supporters who asked Judge Davila for leniency.

The court was packed with dozens of supporters. Ms Holmes’ husband Billy Evans and parents Christian and Noel Holmes accompanied her into the courtroom.

Holmes’ lawyers have cast her as a scapegoat who overcame a toxic relationship with Theranos COO Ramesh “Sunny” Balwani to become a loving mother.

They have argued that sending Holmes to prison was “unnecessary” and asked for an 18 month period of home incarceration.

Judge Davila said he was basing the sentence on 10 investors losing $121m.

Alex Schultz, the father of whistleblower Tyler, read a victim impact statement to say that Holmes had taken a “wrecking ball” to his family.

He looked directly at Holmes as he said Tyler had feared for his life after she hired private investigators to pry into his life.

“My son slept with a knife under his pillow every night thinking somebody was going to come and murder him.”

A tearful Holmes stood to address Judge Davila, where she took responsibility for Theranos’ collapse.

“I regret my failings with every cell of my body.”

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