Prosecutors in Ms. Holmes’s case urged Judge Davila to consider the message her case sent to the world. In court filings ahead of the sentencing, they wrote that a long sentence for Ms. Holmes was important to “deter future start-up fraud schemes” and “rebuild the trust investors must have when funding innovators.”
Elizabeth Holmes’s Epic Rise and Fall
The Theranos founder’s story, from a $9 billion valuation to a fraud conviction, has come to symbolize the pitfalls of Silicon Valley’s culture.
In court on Friday, Jeffrey Schenk, an assistant US attorney and a lead prosecutor on the case, criticized Ms. Holmes’ argument that Theranos’ failure was typical of a high-risk, ambitious Silicon Valley start-up. “It is a logical fallacy to suggest that start-ups fail, Theranos was a start-up, and therefore, Theranos failed because it was a start-up,” he said. “That is not true.”
Mr. Schenk said Ms. Holmes destroyed the trust between “innovators and investors” in Silicon Valley. He added that Ms. Holmes’s offense was not a single bad act, like an insider trading based on a tip, but an extended fraud that occurred over many years. Prosecutors also compared her case to major frauds of the past, including the energy trading company Enron and the long-distance phone company Worldcom, whose chief executives both spent more than a decade in prison.
Kevin Downey, a lawyer for Ms. Holmes, said in court that because she never cashed out her Theranos stock, there was no evidence of greed, such as yachts, planes, large mansions and parties. Lumping Ms. Holmes in with executives at Enron and Worldcom didn’t match her underlying behavior, he said.
“We have a conviction for a crime where the defendant’s motive was to build technology,” he said.
Asking for leniency, Ms. Holmes submitted more than 100 letters of support from figures including Stanford professors, venture capital investors, and Senator Cory Booker, a New Jersey Democrat, which painted her as a virtuous person who was a victim of circumstances.
Ms. Holmes will be assigned to a prison by the Federal Bureau of Prisons based on factors such as location, space, her lack of criminal history and the nonviolent nature of her crime. Minimum security prisons nearest to Ms. Holmes’s residence in Woodside, Calif., include Federal Correctional Institutions in Dublin.