Ex-Theranos CEO’s Criminal Trial Moved To 2021 Due To Virus
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Law360 (August 11, 2020, 4:14 PM EDT) — A California federal judge on Tuesday delayed former Theranos CEO Elizabeth Holmes’ criminal jury trial from October to March in light of challenges posed by the coronavirus pandemic, but he shortened the parties’ proposed pretrial briefing schedule by about two weeks.
During a hearing held via Zoom, U.S. District Judge Edward Davila scheduled jury selection to begin March 9, 2021, with opening arguments iexpected to start about March 16. He also told prosecutors and Holmes’ attorneys that they proposed a “good” pretrial schedule, but he made some changes and pushed up certain deadlines.
“From my perspective, it’s not dramatic,” the judge told the attorneys. “I think it’s something that you can accomplish.”
The coronavirus has shaken up the high-profile criminal case against Holmes and Theranos’ former Chief Operating Officer Ramesh “Sunny” Balwani, who face separate charges of defrauding investors and uninsured patients by making false claims about the capabilities of their once high-flying startup’s blood-testing technology.
Both were indicted in 2018, and Holmes was originally scheduled to face a monthslong jury trial that was supposed to kick off this month. But in the spring, Judge Davila pushed Holmes’ trial to October because of the coronavirus outbreak and scheduled Balwani’s trialfor April 2021.
But Judge Davila said last month the October trial date wasn’t realisticin light of ongoing challenges posed by the pandemic, and he asked the parties to propose a new briefing schedule.
Prosecutors had filed multiple superseding indictments last month against the pair because Judge Davila trimmed some chargesin February. But shortly after the fresh indictments were filed, Holmes asked Judge Davila to authorize discoveryinto the grand jury selection process.
California’s Northern District suspended grand juries in late April until an undisclosed date in June because of the pandemic. But Holmes said she has “serious concerns” that changes in grand jury procedures caused by the pandemic have impacted her constitutional rights under the Sixth Amendment to a jury drawn from a “fair cross section of the community.”
The government fired back in a response brief, arguing that her request is overly broad and alleges without basis that the jury was selected unfairly. Prosecutors also complained that discovery into the grand jury discovery process is a legal strategy that is becoming prevalent among defendants indicted during the COVID-19 pandemic.
On Tuesday, Judge Davila told the parties he is not going to hold a hearing on the dispute over grand jury records, and he will issue an order shortly without oral arguments.
The judge also questioned how many pretrial motions Holmes expects to file before trial. Her attorney Lance A. Wade of Williams & Connolly LLPsaid they expect to file between four and six motions, but noted that number could change.
The government is represented by John C. Bostic, Jeffrey Schenk, Robert S. Leach and Vanessa Ann Baehr-Jones of the U.S. Attorney’s Officefor the Northern District of California.
Holmes is represented by Kevin Downey, Lance A. Wade, Amy Mason Saharia and Katherine Trefz of Williams & Connolly LLP.
Balwani is represented by Jeffrey B. Coopersmith and Steve Cazares of Orrick Herrington & Sutcliffe LLP.
The case is U.S. v. Holmes et al., case number 5:18-cr-00258, in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California.
–Additional reporting by Mike Curley. Editing by Amy Rowe.
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