(Reuters) – Theranos Inc founder Elizabeth Holmes accused her former boyfriend, who was president of the blood testing startup, of abusing her, unsealed court documents showed on Saturday, alluding to a possible defense strategy with jury selection in his fraud trial. to start next week.
In documents filed in court over 18 months ago, Holmes’ attorneys said they plan to present evidence that Ramesh “Sunny” Balwani had emotionally and psychologically abused her in a relationship that lasted for more than a decade. This includes the period when the company claimed that its technology could allow a wide range of medical tests with just a few drops of blood.
Theranos, which Holmes founded in 2003 at the age of 19, collapsed in March 2018 when she, Balwani and the $ 9 billion company were accused of fraud by U.S. regulators. Theranos had made Holmes, a Stanford University dropout, a Silicon Valley star.
In the filings, Holmes’ attorneys argued that the alleged “intimate partner violence” was relevant to whether she knew the financial information provided to investors and others was false. Holmes intends to blame Balwani, alleging he exercised control over her through the abusive relationship, the documents say.
Balwani, whose case is treated separately, has denied the allegations.
“Mr. Balwani unequivocally denies having engaged in abuse at any time,” his lawyers wrote in a December 2019 filing.
Holmes and Balwani have both pleaded not guilty to defrauding investors, doctors and patients by falsely claiming that Theranos could revolutionize medical laboratory testing with its technology.
Williams & Connolly’s attorneys for Holmes and Balwani’s attorneys at Orrick Herrington & Sutcliffe could not immediately be reached for comment.
Deputy U.S. Attorney Jeff Schenk, the lead prosecutor in charge of the case, did not respond to an email seeking comment.
Holmes’ lawyers had previously signaled that they would make his mental health an issue in the case. Last year, they said Mindy Mechanic, a professor at California State University at Fullerton who specializes in the psychosocial consequences of violence, trauma and victimization, would provide expert testimony at the trial.
The case is United States v. Holmes, US District Court, Northern District of California, # 18-cr-00258.
(Reporting by Nathan Layne in Wilton, Connecticut; editing by Richard Chang)