The criminal trial of Elizabeth Holmes, founder of the failed blood-testing company Theranos, has been delayed due to the coronavirus pandemic.
Initially set to begin on July 28, the trial will now start on October 27, said Judge Edward Davila of the US District Court for the Northern District of California.
Davila, who presides over the case, announced the change during a status conference held by telephone Wednesday.
Holmes is charged with two counts of conspiracy to commit wire fraud and nine counts of wire fraud and faces up to 20 years in prison.
Once heralded as “the female Steve Jobs,” Holmes’ downfall is as spectacular as her meteoric rise in Silicon Valley.
In 2014, her biotech company claimed to revolutionize blood-testing and was valued at $9 billion, making Holmes the world’s youngest female self-made billionaire.
That ended after intense scrutiny from investigative journalist John Carreyrou at The Wall Street Journal led to an investigation by the SEC.
In March 2018, the Securities and Exchange Commission announced charges and alleged company executives raised “more than $700 million from investors through an elaborate, years-long fraud.”
The SEC said the company and its CEO and COO misled partners and investors about its technology, misrepresented revenue projections and falsely claimed it didn’t need regulatory approval for its testing technology. In the release announcing the charges, it was revealed Holmes and Theranos had reached a settlement with the SEC.
Ultimately, Holmes, along with former COO Ramesh “Sunny” Balwani, were indicted on federal wire fraud charges in 2018. Both have pleaded not guilty.
Holmes’ lawyers declared in a joint memorandum, filed on Tuesday, that the pandemic could significantly impact the trial and asked for the case to be postponed until early 2021.
“The possibility of one or more trial participants falling ill to the virus in these circumstances, and under present health conditions, appears to be significant. If any trial participant were to contract the virus, that unfortunate event would significantly disrupt the trial. All trial participants would need to be quarantined for 2 weeks or longer. The risk of a mistrial would be substantial,” lawyers for Holmes stated.
Prosecutors maintained the trial can be held in the fall and also revealed that the government intends to seek a superseding indictment that could expand the case against Holmes.
The parties are set to reconvene for a further status update in July, when the judge will decide whether the October trial date is feasible or whether it might be necessary to move the trial to 2021.