Elizabeth Holmes, founder and former CEO of Theranos, arrives for motion hearing on Monday, November 4, 2019, at the U.S. District Court House inside Robert F. Peckham Federal Building in San Jose, California.
Yichuan Cao | NurPhoto | Getty Images
Elizabeth Holmes, the once heralded visionary who claimed to revolutionize blood testing in America, got her fate delayed on Wednesday when a judge set a new trial date of Oct. 27 due to the coronavirus pandemic.
As the economy is screeching to a halt and millions are scrambling to get tested for whether they have the virus, a judge said it’s impossible to keep Holmes’ original trial date in July.
“We’re in unchartered waters and unchartered territories,” U.S. District Judge Edward Davila said. “We need to make sure the environment is safe for all parties, including the jury that’s called to hear the matter.”
The judge said he would consider moving the trial to early 2021 if the coronavirus remains a threat in the fall.
In a status memo filed this week, attorneys for Holmes pointed to the dangers of conducting such a high-profile trial amid a health pandemic.
“The defense, jurors and witnesses will all enter the courthouse through crowds of onlookers who have often approached and even touched counsel and the defendant during entry to the building,” they wrote, adding if anyone in the trial contracted the virus “the risk of a mistrial would be substantial.”
Prosecutors are also looking to expand the case against Holmes with a superseding indictment, which would introduce two new wire fraud counts relating to a patient and doctor who were allegedly defrauded by her company Theranos and broaden the timeframe of her alleged crimes by three years.
Prosecutors said they also want to include former Theranos business partners, Walgreens and Safeway, as victims of fraud.
“Counsel for Ms. Holmes does not understand why it took the government nearly two years post-indictment, and more than five years into its investigation, to bring these new charges,” Holmes’ legal team said in a filing.
On Wednesday, Davila said a grand jury, which would need to return a new indictment with the additional charges, cannot convene until the courthouse reopens.
Holmes founded blood-testing startup Theranos in 2003, with the promise of running hundreds of lab tests from just a drop or two of blood.
At one time, Theranos had a private valuation of more than $9 billion, making Holmes the nation’s youngest self-made female billionaire.
Prosecutors say she and co-defendant Ramesh “Sunny” Balwani duped investors, policymakers and doctors about the accuracy of Theranos’ blood-testing technology.
They each face up to 20 years in prison if convicted.