Fallen United States biotech star Elizabeth Holmes was sentenced Friday to 11 years and three months in prison for defrauding investors with her Silicon Valley start-up firm.
The Theranos founder had been convicted on four felony fraud counts in January for persuading investors that she had developed a revolutionary medical device before the company flamed out after an investigation by The Wall Street Journal.
The closely watched case became an indictment of Silicon Valley, and US federal prosecutors had sought a 15-year jail term for Holmes. She was sentenced to 135 months.
US attorney Stephanie Hinds said the sentence “reflects the audacity of her massive fraud and the staggering damage she caused.”
“For almost a decade, Elizabeth Holmes fabricated and spread elaborate falsehoods to draw in a legion of capital investors, both big and small, and her deceit caused the loss of hundreds of millions of dollars,” the prosecutor said in a statement following the judge’s decision.
Holmes, who is pregnant, will not have to surrender herself until April next year, ordered US District Judge Edward Davila in a courtroom in San Jose, California.
Holmes’s lawyer indicated she would appeal her conviction.
Moments before her sentencing, a tearful Holmes told the court, “I stand before you taking responsibility for Theranos. I loved Theranos. It was my life’s work.”
She added, “I am devastated by my failings. Every day for the past years I have felt deep pain for what people went through because I failed them.”
“I gave everything I had to building our company and trying to save our company.”
– ‘Tragedy’ –
Holmes became a star of Silicon Valley when she said her now defunct start-up was perfecting an easy-to-use test kit that could carry out a wide range of medical diagnostics with just a few drops of blood.
At the time, Holmes often dressed soberly in black turtlenecks that evoked her hero, the late Apple icon Steve Jobs.
She sold investors on the idea that her invention would disrupt medical practice, replacing expensive lab tests with her cheap kits.
But prosecutors said Holmes knew her device was not producing accurate and reliable results, yet induced dozens of investors to contribute nearly one billion dollars, all without ever achieving meaningful revenue.
Holmes’s meteoric rise and fast demise has been the subject of books, movies and a TV series that framed her story as a cautionary tale on the excesses of the tech industry that blindly followed a charismatic founder.
At one point, the Theranos board included former US Defense Secretary James Mattis and former US secretaries of state Henry Kissinger and the late George Shultz.
Sentencing Holmes on Friday, Davila said the case was a “tragedy” and “troubling on so many levels.”
He described Holmes as “a big thinker” who had fought to get into an industry dominated by “male ego.”
But he noted “significant evidence about manipulation and untruths that were being used in the negotiation of the business.”
“What is it that caused that? Was it hubris? Was it intoxication with the fame that comes from being a young entrepreneur?” he asked.
– ‘Amazing things’ –
After hearing her prison sentence, Holmes hugged her partner Billy Evans, who is the father of her 15-month-old son, and her mother, Noel Holmes.
Lawyers for Holmes, 38, had asked for leniency, presenting her as a devoted friend who cares for a young child and has a second child on the way.
This was backed up by 140 letters of support filed to the court, including from her family, friends and a US senator.
“I am confident that on the other side of this, Elizabeth will do amazing things for society with her talents and boundless passion for changing the world for the better,” said one letter.
That was in sharp contrast to descriptions given at her trial that painted her as an ambitious con artist who harassed her workers.
In a letter, Holmes’s aunt, who was an early investor in Theranos, called on the court to give her a tough sentence, The Wall Street Journal reported.
Prosecutors want Holmes to pay $800 million in restitution to investors that included the Walton family of Walmart, the Walgreens chain of pharmacies and media mogul Rupert Murdoch.
A restitution hearing will be scheduled, although Holmes says she has no money to pay.
‘Days Of Our Lives’ Star, John Aniston Dies At 89
John Aniston, star of the long-running soap opera Days of Our Lives and father of Jennifer Aniston, has died at age 89.
The Friends star posted a tribute to her father on Monday on Instagram, announcing that he had died on Friday, Veteran’s Day.
“You were one of the most beautiful humans I ever knew,” she wrote.
Photos of them together were shared with her 40 million followers.
Her tribute drew comments from many famous friends, including Friends co-star Lisa Kudrow, Ryan Reynolds, Gal Gadot, her ex-husband Justin Theroux, and more.
The official Days of Our Lives account also posted a tribute to the talented member of their television family.
Russian Strike On Residential Building Kills Five In South Ukraine
Ukraine said Friday that at least five people were killed following a Russian strike on a residential building in the southern city of Mykolaiv, near the frontline.
The attack came as Russia said it was drawing down troops from the nearby city of Kherson, the only regional capital Moscow’s forces captured in Ukraine after they launched their February invasion.
The Mykolaiv regional governor Vitaliy Kim said on social media that the toll had risen to five after the latest fatal attack on the city that has been battered for months by Russian forces.
President Volodymyr Zelensky said the strike was a “cynical response to our successes at the front.”
“A strike at a five-storey residential building. Destroyed from the 5th to the 1st floor,” he said on social media.
Images circulating social media showed a gaping hole cut through a Soviet-style residential building with emergency workers in yellow helmets on the site clearing rubble.
Ukrainian officials have remained wary after Moscow signalled late Wednesday that it would pull forces from the west bank of the Dnipro river in Kherson, in what would be a major Russian setback in a region Vladimir Putin claimed to have annexed.
Brazilian Singer, Gal Costa Dies At 77
Brazilian singer Gal Costa, whose crystalline voice and transgressive sensuality made her the muse of the groundbreaking “Tropicalia” movement in the 1960s, died Wednesday, her public relations agency said. She was 77.
With her mane of brown curls and seductive smile, Costa sang with some of the biggest names on Brazil’s booming popular music scene in the 1960s and immortalized many of their songs, including by Tom Jobim, Chico Buarque, Milton Nascimento, and her close friend Caetano Veloso.
“Unfortunately, we confirm” that Costa died, a spokeswoman for Costa’s PR firm told AFP, saying she could not give further details.
Costa, who lived in Sao Paulo, had recently canceled a concert at the city’s Primavera Sound music festival on doctors’ advice after having surgery in September to remove a nodule from her right nasal cavity, according to Brazilian media.
But she had been expected to return to the stage, and her website listed her next performance as a concert in Sao Paulo on December 17.
News of her death brought an emotional outpouring in Brazil, including from some of the biggest names in music.
“I’m very sad and shaken by the death of my ‘sister’ @GalCosta,” tweeted famed singer-songwriter and former culture minister, Gilberto Gil.
Brazilian president-elect Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva posted a picture of himself embracing Costa on Instagram.
She was “one of the best singers in the world, one of our foremost artists who brought the name and sounds of Brazil to the entire planet,” he wrote.
“The country… lost one of its great voices today.”
Costa is survived by her 16-year-old adopted son, her agency said.