According to unsealed documents obtained by the Washington Post, Holmes plans to argue that the abuse—which allegedly included verbal abuse and coercive control—impeded her ability to make her own decisions.
Holmes’s attorneys introduced the allegations in December, when they alerted the judge to the possibility that Holmes might introduce evidence of intimate partner abuse she allegedly endured from ex Ramesh “Sunny” Balwani. In the document, Holmes said Balwani monitored her communications and movements, threw dangerous objects at her, and restricted her sleep. A later February filing from the defense suggests that Holmes—who has been charged with 10 counts of wire fraud and two counts of conspiracy to commit wire fraud—will likely cite these allegations to explain “why she believed, relied on, and deferred to Mr. Balwani.” And other court documents raise the possibility of an expert witness who will explain “how Ms. Holmes’ relationship with Mr. Balwani was consistent with intimate partner abuse” in court. Balwani has denied the allegations through his lawyers.
Holmes’s much-anticipated trial is slated for next month, at a federal courthouse in San Jose, California, with jury selection starting on Tuesday. The legal trouble began for Holmes when Theranos was exposed as (allegedly!) a massive scam by reporters in 2015, prompting federal investigators to take action against the company. The following year, Holmes was temporarily banned from owning or operating a lab, and prominent corporate partners like Walgreens began severing ties with the company.
Holmes and Balwani were both indicted in June 2018, based on prosecutors’ findings that the pair had defrauded investors as well as doctors and patients. Originally, Holmes and Balwani were to be tried together, but the two later had their cases separated. Despite Balwani’s requests, Holmes will go first, meaning the public will first hear her accounts of his alleged abuse before he goes to court. But even if the jury in Holmes’s case believes she was abused by Balwani, it does not necessarily mean they will see it as a plausible explanation for her business decisions.