Elizabeth Holmes, the woman behind the now defunct blood-testing company Theranos, goes on trial this week for fraud, after claiming her company could provide rapid blood tests using a much smaller amount of blood than conventional tests. Her claims were proven false and Holmes as well as former Theranos president Ramesh Balwani were charged with fraud.
Trial documents released on Saturday and obtained by NPR show that Holmes’ defense team plans to claim that Balwani, who is also her ex-boyfriend, emotionally and sexually abused her, which she and her attorneys claim impaired her thinking at the time that she was defrauding patients and investors with Theranos.
“This pattern of abuse and coercive control continued over the approximately decade-long duration of Ms. Holmes and Mr. Balwani’s relationship, including during the period of the charged conspiracies,” Holmes’ attorneys wrote in one court filing.
To bolster their claims, NPR reported, Holmes’ attorneys plan to call Mindy Mechanic, a psychologist and expert in intimate partner abuse. Mechanic reportedly evaluated Holmes for 14 hours, but NPR noted that the psychologists report refers to research about abuse but has redacted specific information about her evaluation of Holmes.
Holmes in court documents claims Balwani controlled how she ate, dressed, what she spent money on, and who she could speak to, and also monitored her phone calls, text messages, and emails. Holmes also claims he threw “hard, sharp objects at her” and was physically abusive. Holmes now claims that Balwani restricted her sleep, monitored her movements, and allegedly claimed her success was thanks to him.
In his own court filing, Balwani’s attorneys call Holmes’ allegations “salacious and inflammatory,” questioning the prosecution’s claims that their cross-examination of Holmes’ witnesses would “cure any prejudice” to the former Theranos president raised by Holmes’ allegations.
“The government cites no authority for the bizarre contention that a defendant benefits from being accused of sexual abuse in the middle of an unrelated fraud trial, and that he should rest assured that the government will have his back during cross-examination,” Balwani’s lawyers wrote.
Holmes’ allegations came up after discussions of whether she and Balwani should be tried separately or together for their alleged crimes. Holmes, according to court documents, intends to argue that because of Balwani’s alleged abuse, she suffers from intimate partner abuse syndrome, post-traumatic stress disorder, and depression. She apparently intends to claim that Balwani’s alleged abuse was the equivalent to “dominating her and erasing her capacity to make decisions.” This included her decisions that “deceive[d] her victims.”
Balwani’s filing argues that he should be tried separately from Holmes, saying that Holme’s abuse allegations “would never be admissible against” him if he were tried alone. Balwani also says in his filing that the government is “baselessly” accusing him of “orchestrating” the abuse claims with Holmes in order to get the trials separated.
Jury selection in the case begins Tuesday. Holmes is expected to take the stand in her own defense once the trial begins.