Elizabeth Holmes’ attorneys are worried that evidence of the disgraced Theranos founder’s luxe lifestyle could inflame “class prejudice” against her at her upcoming fraud trial.
The feds want to detail for a jury how Holmes rubbed elbows with celebrities, drove a high-end SUV, rented a pricey home and took advantage of other perks as the CEO of the failed blood-testing startup.
But Holmes’ legal team says the “highly misleading” evidence could unfairly tilt jurors against her simply because she earned a big paycheck like other Silicon Valley executives.
“The potential evidence regarding the amount of money Ms. Holmes earned from Theranos, the value of her stock, the type of car she drove, the house she lived in, the people she met, and her travel accommodations risks invoking class prejudice and has minimal probative value,” the lawyers wrote in a Tuesday court filing.
The lawyers also took issue with the feds’ plans to detail how Holmes spent some of her wealth on expensive clothes, makeup and other goods.
That evidence only “seeks to inflame by appealing to stereotypes of class and gender and to ask jurors to judge the merits of this matter by their attitudes about such things,” Holmes’ lawyers said in the filing, noting that many of the items at issue were purchased for her job.
“The government ignores that Ms. Holmes was criticized for wearing the same outfit every day,” the attorneys wrote, apparently referring to the signature black turtleneck she frequently sported.
Holmes’ lawyers stood by their argument that her high-flying lifestyle had nothing to do with the feds’ allegations that she and ex-Theranos president Ramesh “Sunny” Balwani peddled bogus blood tests with devices that they promoted as revolutionary but knew were unreliable and inaccurate.
While prosecutors have said Holmes’ wealth demonstrates her motive to commit the alleged fraud, her attorneys contend that argument could apply to the CEO or founder of any company.
Holmes’ fraud trial is slated to start in July. The US Attorney’s Office for the Northern District of California, which is trying the case, could not immediately be reached for comment Wednesday morning.