Elizabeth Holmes, the founder and former CEO of Theranos who is on trial facing fraud charges, has testified that her business and romantic partner, Ramesh 'Sunny' Balwani, abused her, the Associated Press reports.
Theranos, which was once valued at $9 billion, unraveled in the wake of a series of Wall Street Journal articles that questioned the company's ability to conduct the blood tests it said it could and regulatory inspections that uncovered serious problems at one of the company's labs. Holmes and Balwani, the company's former president, were indicted in 2018 on charges of wire fraud, with prosecutors alleging that they defrauded investors. Both pleaded not guilty.
In 2020, CNN reported that Holmes' attorneys appeared through court filings to be pursuing a mental disease or defect defense and Bloomberg added that the defense might focus on the psychosocial effects of violence against women.
According to the AP, Holmes has now testified that Balwani, who she met as a teenager, abused her emotionally by berating and belittling her as well as sexually. Balwani's lawyer, Jeffrey Coopersmith, has denied the allegations, the AP notes. It adds that Balwani is being tried separately from Holmes.
The Verge adds that the testimony appears to go to Holmes' state of mind. "For the wire fraud charges to stick, the government has to show that Holmes was knowingly lying," it says. "But if she believed she was telling the truth — or she was somehow rendered incompetent to judge what the truth was — the prosecution's case falls apart."