Sentient black turtleneck and Theranos founder Elizabeth Holmes was convicted on four counts of fraud on Monday, offering the expected ending to the mid-2000s grifter renaissance.
Holmes, who dropped out of Stanford at 19 to launch blood testing start-up Theranos, was found guilty by a jury of four counts of fraud, including three counts of wire fraud and one count of conspiracy to commit wire fraud by lying to investors. Followers of Holmes’ “work” will remember that she lead investors to believe Theranos’ supposed proprietary technology was capable of conducting “revolutionary” blood tests. She was found not guilty on four counts alleging she defrauded patients who used Theranos’s finger prick tests. The jury was unable to reach a verdict on three additional counts of deceiving investors. The judge plans to declare a mistrial on the remaining three counts, while Homes’ former boyfriend and president of Theranos Ramesh “Sunny” Balwani awaits his own trial.
The convictions come in the wake of three months of testimony by nearly three dozen witnesses. Holmes, 37, is set to face up to 20 years in prison for each count. The New York Times reported that Holmes, known best for her frog-like and allegedly feigned deep voice sat “motionless” as the verdict was read. Lest you think this will be the end of the PT Barnum-reminiscent court melodrama, Holmes is expected to appeal the ruling, meaning there’s plenty more pomp and circumstance to come.
Theranos, an entirely women-led health startup once valued at $9 billion and widely considered a unicorn within Silicon Valley, rocketed a young Holmes and her accompanying dead eyes to prominence… and just as quickly tanked her reputation. Wealthy investors and a tech industry characterized by pervasive sexism found themselves intoxicated by the promise of a girlboss regime change — a welcomed recess from the toxic manchild-to-visionary pipeline that birthed boy-geniuses Jobs, Uber’s Travis Kalanick, and WeWork’s Adam Neumann. Instead of a fulfillment of that promise, investors were swindled out of millions of dollars, as Holmes lied about the accuracy and number of tests Theranos’s machines could perform in order to keep the company’s bank accounts swelling.
The court proceedings were just as tumultuous as Holmes’ own fall from glory. As part of a strategy to point fingers at Theranos’ other key leadership, the founder gave tearful testimony that she was raped at Stanford University and later suffered emotional and sexual abuse by long-time boyfriend Balwani. Later, she admitted that she never received permission to apply logos from pharmaceutical companies on reports given to investors, feigning support from the corporate giants. The jury was also shown some chaotic text messages between Holmes and alleged abuser Balwani including “Missing u in every breath and in every cell” (Balwani) and “You are the breeze in desert for me.”
Yet, in spite of all the evidence, Holmes’ off putting persona has spawned thousands of TikTok videos and subsequent fan clubs that straddle the worlds of irony and a sincere cult following, as well as peculiar parasocial relationships with fans who cosplayed as the founder outside of the courthouse during her trial. “You go girl! We believe in you!” and “You’re brilliant!” many Holmies, as her stans are called, chanted in her support, as though her fall from grace made her more famous than the cover of Forbes ever did. “TheraYES!” they write.
No. TheraNO. I will kindly remind you that Holmes is not an idol or a visionary. She’s a convicted fraudster. A talented liar. And we can expect to be subjected to her “stupid man” voice lies for months to come.