Elizabeth Holmes' ex, 'Sunny' Balwani, now faces his own fraud trial. Legal experts think he'll use a similar defense strategy: Blame your former partner.
Theranosfounder Elizabeth Holmeswas found guilty of wire fraud and conspiracy earlier this year.
- Ramesh "Sunny" Balwani, her ex-boyfriend and former business partner at Theranos, faces his own
Elizabeth Holmes was found guilty of wire fraud and conspiracy in January, but the legal saga revolving around her former company, Theranos, isn't over yet. The company's former president and COO and Holmes' ex-boyfriend, Ramesh "Sunny" Balwani, now faces his own fraud
Insider spoke with four legal experts to break down how Holmes' verdict affects Balwani's trial — and how both sides may shake up their strategies based on what they've learned from Holmes' trial.
"This was a test for him to see how a jury would respond to the evidence, to the witnesses," said Stephen Miller, co-chair of White Collar Defense & Investigations at Philadelphia-based Cozen O'Connor. "They responded with conviction."
For Balwani's team, the most obvious strategy is to push blame back onto Holmes, as she did to him in her trial.
"If you're Balwani, you have to pass the buck to her," said Jennifer Beidel, co-chair of the White Collar and Government Enforcement Practice at Philadelphia-based Saul Ewing Arnstein & Lehr. "I think he'll make a similar argument to the one she made, that he wasn't the one who had the knowledge and wasn't the one making the decisions."
Balwani will also likely try to pin some blame on Theranos staffers. In her trial, Holmes frequently blamed lab directors for the company's testing issues. "Balwani will point the finger at Holmes and then probably also point it down in the same way she did," Beidel said.
Then there's the matter of the patient-related charges. Holmes was acquitted of all charges related to defrauding Theranos patients.
Balwani's team will try to hone in on this weak spot. "Defense counsel will probably lean into that and say, 'It seems like this first jury saw holes in that case, can we find those holes? Can we make them bigger?'" said Beidel.
The prosecution, meanwhile, will have to present more evidence and testimony showing how faulty Theranos tests hurt patients to get a conviction on those charges this time around.
"They're going to have to dial up the impact to those individuals," said Michael Weinstein, chair of the White Collar Defense & Investigations Department at Cole Schotz, which is headquartered in Hackensack, New Jersey. "They have to put on victims. A jury is looking to see not only what the defendant said and what actions they took, but they want to see a real live human being as a victim."
As in Holmes' case, the question is whether the defendant will testify. Balwani refused to testify in Holmes' trial, pleading the Fifth, and he seems unlikely to take the stand in his own defense. He was not included in a list of potential witnesses filed in court in December, but the roster is preliminary.
"I think as a defense lawyer, you would certainly go into a situation where a potential co-conspirator has been convicted thinking it'll be hard for your client to go on the stand and testify truthfully without putting themselves in some additional degree of risk," said Beidel. "It's a really hard call in that situation."
Balwani also lacks qualities that Holmes possessed that could help make a jury sympathetic.
Holmes could lean on a naivete defense, having started Theranos at 19 years old, while Balwani had been in the tech industry for years by the time he joined the company. Holmes is also known for being charismatic, while Balwani is said to have been an "enforcer" figure at Theranos. There's also the fact Holmes is a woman and new mother.
"Statistically, we're used to seeing more male defendants than female defendants," Beidel said. "I think there's probably still a bias towards thinking men commit crimes more often than women do."
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