The federal judge overseeing the criminal fraud trial of former Theranos CEO and Silicon Valley biotech entrepreneur Elizabeth Holmes on Monday denied a request by her co-defendant Ramesh “Sunny” Balwani for guaranteed access to the high-profile proceedings.
“Mr. Balwani hereby moves this Court to reserve two seats for members of his defense team at Ms. Holmes’ trial in order to maintain a level playing field between the defense and prosecution leading up to Mr. Balwani’s trial,” Balwani’s lawyers wrote in an Aug. 23 memo, a week before her trial began.
Judge Edward Davila denied the request without any explanation.
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According to Balwani, the government’s unfettered access to Holmes’ trial gives it an unfair advantage in his case that is scheduled to go to trial in January 2022. The court’s first come, first served policy, Balwani argued, could exclude his counsel from critical evidence found only inside the courtroom.
“Given the intense media and public interest in Ms. Holmes’ trial and the large crowds expected to attend, Mr. Balwani seeks to ensure that his defense team can observe these nonverbal indicia of credibility that bear so heavily on the case,” Balwani’s motion said, adding that most, if not all, of the witnesses expected to testify during Holmes’ trial are likely to testify during Balwani’s trial.
Balwani’s lawyers also pointed out that seats had been reserved for Holmes’ friends and family, government agents, and reporters.
Yahoo Finance contacted Balwani’s counsel for comment and did not receive an immediate response.
In 2018, a federal grand jury indicted Holmes and Balwani, 56, who was also Holmes’ one-time boyfriend and the former COO and president of Theranos, charging them with wire fraud and conspiracy. The indictment claims the pair used Theranos to defraud investors and patients and misrepresented its blood-testing technology from 2010 to 2015.
Holmes, now 37, launched Theranos in 2003 at just 19 years old, with a vision to overhaul diagnostic health care. Over more than a decade, the entrepreneur sold investors on the idea of developing an analyzer, the size of a desktop printer, that could run a suite of common tests on as little as a drop or two of blood taken from a patient’s finger.
Late last month, unsealed court documents revealed Holmes’ allegations that she suffered “a decade-long campaign of psychological abuse” by Balwani that gave her post-traumatic stress disorder. Balwani allegedly controlled what she ate, how she dressed, and how long she slept. Balwani monitored her phone calls, texts, and emails and threw hard, sharp objects at her, the documents claim. Balwani has denied the claims.
During opening statements Wednesday, Holmes’ lawyer told jurors that Balwani ran Theranos on equal footing with Holmes and that while workers at Theranos may have observed Balwani and Holmes in their work setting, there was another side to her relationship with him that nobody else saw.
Holmes’ trial is expected to last as long as four months. The charges against Holmes and Balwani each carry a maximum penalty of 20 years in prison.
Alexis Keenan is a legal reporter for Yahoo Finance. Follow Alexis on Twitter @alexiskweed.
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