Disgraced biotech founder Elizabeth Holmes has appealed her criminal fraud conviction and her federal jail time — a move that was widely anticipated but believed to fail.
Holmes was convicted in January of four counts of defrauding investors of her now-defunct blood testing startup, Theranos, which resulted in a multimillion-dollar loss. Holmes, along with her former romantic partner and COO of Theranos, Ramesh “Sunny” Balwani, falsely claimed that their technology could perform over 200 medical tests with just a few drops of blood. Balwani’s sentencing is scheduled for December 7.
Two weeks ago, Judge Edward Davila of the United States District Court for the Northern District of California, who continued the exhaustive trial, sentenced Holmes to 11 years and 3 months in prison.
Holmes’ three-page letter of appeal, filed Dec. 2, did not specify the grounds on which she will appeal her case. She has until March 3 to file legal instructions for her appeal with the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals in California.
Legal experts have said she has a slim chance of having her conviction overturned, citing Davila’s careful efforts to be fair to both parties during the trial. Davila has previously rejected Holmes’ offer for a post-trial acquittal and three separate motions for a new trial.
“This sentence is watertight on appeal,” Seth Kretzer, a criminal defense attorney not involved in the case, told Bloomberg News. “The end of this long case is approaching.”
Experts who spoke to Law360 also doubted Davila would allow Holmes to remain free on bail until her appeal is complete, which could take years. Currently, Holmes is scheduled to surrender to the U.S. Bureau of Prisons by April 27, 2023.
Davila has proposed that Holmes serve her time at a minimum-security federal prison camp for women in Bryan, Texas, outside of Houston, which primarily holds non-violent young white-collar women convicted of embezzlement or fraud. The facility, which has dormitories and a low staff-to-inmate ratio, is viewed as “heaven” compared to other places in the prison system, according to Alan Ellis, a criminal defense attorney who spoke with The Washington Post.
There are “no walls, no bars, no fences,” Ellis said. “Nobody wants to be kicked out because compared to other places in the prison system, this place is heaven. If you have to, it’s a good place to go.”
Judge Davila also encouraged Holmes to visit family, saying it “promotes rehabilitation”. Holmes and her partner, Billy Evans, have a 16-month-old son. Holmes is also now visibly pregnant with her second child.
If her conviction stands up to appeal, experts told Law360 they expect Holmes, who is 38, to face no less than nine and a half years behind bars – 85 percent of her sentence – assuming she is a candidate for parole for good behavior.