Elizabeth Holmes’ taste for travel, celebrity admissible in Theranos trial

Federal prosecutors will be allowed to highlight Theranos founder Elizabeth Holmes’ taste for globe-trotting and celebrity in her upcoming fraud trial, a judge ruled, after her attorneys argued that such details could enflame jurors’ “class prejudice.”

Holmes’ glamorous lifestyle included traveling by private jet, driving an expensive SUV and staying in pricey hotels while hobnobbing with influential friends and backers like former US Secretary of State Henry Kissinger and former Defense Secretary James Mattis.

US prosecutors in Holmes’ upcoming trial, which is slated to start in August after Holmes’ attorneys requested a delay due to her pregnancy, argued that the disgraced businesswoman’s lavish lifestyle and relationships with powerful people incentivized her to commit fraud. 

Holmes’ attorneys retorted in February that details about Holmes’ lifestyle should not be admitted because they could spark “class prejudice” in jurors.

Aerial view of a large estate with a swimming pool.
Theranos was once valued at $9 billion and Elizabeth Holmes’ standard of living reflected wealth on that scale.
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Judge Edward Davila, who is overseeing the case, threaded the needle between prosecution and defense by determining that information about Holmes’ travel, salary and taste for celebrity are admissible evidence, but that details on other aspects of her lifestyle are not. 

“The Government may introduce evidence that Holmes enjoyed a lifestyle as Theranos CEO that is comparable to those of other tech company CEOs. This includes salary, travel, celebrity, and other perks and benefits commensurate with the position,” Davila wrote in a court document filed Saturday in the United States District Court for the Northern District of California.

“However, references to specific purchases or details reflecting branding of clothing, hotels, or other personal items is not relevant, and the prejudicial effect of that evidence outweighs any probative value.” 

Elizabeth Holmes enjoyed luxe accommodations before her downfall for making false claims about her company’s technology.
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Holmes, who was indicted for fraud alongside former Theranos chief operating officer Ramesh Balwani in 2018, was once the world’s youngest female self-made billionaire. Her now-defunct company, which falsely claimed it had developed technology to perform rapid medical tests using minuscule amounts of blood, was once valued at $9 billion.