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In Theranos Fraud Case, Holmes Will Be Tried Apart From Ex-Lover

  • Experts predicted executives’ romance might complicate defense
  • Former CEO, ex-president don’t acknowledge each other in court
Elizabeth Holmes arrives at federal court in San Jose, California on Oct. 2.
Elizabeth Holmes arrives at federal court in San Jose, California on Oct. 2.Photographer: Michael Short/Bloomberg
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Elizabeth Holmes and Sunny Balwani ran Theranos Inc. together as chief executive officer and president, and for a time, as girlfriend and boyfriend.

But when they go on trial over criminal charges that the once-promising blood testing startup was a fraud, they will face separate juries.

A judge didn’t explain why he severed their trials in a brief order issued late Friday, saying only that he found “good cause” to do so, and that Holmes’ trial will start Aug. 4 as scheduled, while Balwani’s will begin after hers is finished.

Since the two former executives were charged in 2018, they have maintained a unified, if sometimes strained, front. Legal experts have said their past romance is probably a “complicating factor” as they try to avoid being convicted and sent to prison. One possibility for the split is that one defendant is turning on the other, considering testifying against his or her former lover or even cooperating with the prosecution.

Barbara McQuade, a former federal prosecutor and professor at the University of Michigan Law School, said the answer may lie in the dozens of court filings being kept from public view.

“The fact that there have been sealed filings and the judge does not specify the basis suggests that there may be sensitive information at issue,” McQuade said. The shielded documents may reveal trade secrets or sensitive information about the defendants such as health or medical issues, she said.