- Elizabeth Holmes plans to accuse former boyfriend and ex-business partner, Ramesh Balwani, of abuse during her criminal trial.
- The founder of Theranos will claim Balwani threw "sharp" objects at her and controlled how she ate and dressed, impacting her "state of mind."
- An attorney for Balwani called the accusations salacious and inflammatory.
- See more stories on Insider's business page.
Elizabeth Holmes, the founder of Theranos, plans to accuse her former boyfriend and ex-business partner of "intimate partner abuse" as part of her defense strategy in her upcoming fraud trial.
Holmes will contend that Ramesh "Sunny" Balwani - former Theranos vice-chair, COO, and president - threw "sharp" objects at her and controlled how she ate and dressed, according to new federal court filings released Saturday.
Balwani exercised control over Holmes in what was "a decade-long campaign of psychological abuse," according to Holmes' lawyers Lance Wade and Kevin Downey. She will also accuse him of sexual abuse, the documents said.
Holmes will contend during her trial, which starts Tuesday in California, that Balwani monitored her calls, texts, and emails, impacting her "state of mind," including her decision to turn a blind eye to the failures of her blood-testing startup, which was supposed to revolutionize medical testing.
The US Department of Justice charged Holmes and Balwani with nine counts of wire fraud in 2018, accusing them of defrauding investors, medical professionals, and customers. Both have pleaded not guilty.
Before her arrest and the downfall of Theranos, Holmes was one of only a handful of female founders in Silicon Valley running a unicorn, or $1 billion-plus startup. Theranos purported to detect medical conditions like cancer and high cholesterol by using proprietary lab tech on a small amount of customers' blood. The company raised over $700 million from investors to build the tech.
The newly released court documents show how Holmes intends to build a defense against the fraud accusations. She plans to tell the court that she suffered from post-traumatic stress disorder, depression, and anxiety, which her lawyers said Holmes plans to substantiate.
The lawyers also said Holmes will detail how Balwani often isolated her, was combative towards her, and was often physically present in her office, all traits, the document said, are "abuse tactics used by abusers."
Balwani, through his lawyer, denied these allegations, according to a court document.
"Ms. Holmes' allegations are deeply offensive to Mr. Balwani, devastating personally to him," Jeffrey Coopersmith, Balwani's lawyer, said, calling the accusations salacious and inflammatory.
Coopersmith added: "Ms. Holmes's evidence seeking to establish her innocence would require him to defend against not only the government's case, but to defend against her allegations as well because her allegations are so inflammatory that they cannot be left unrebutted before the jury."
Balwani faces a separate fraud trial next year.
Holmes' lawyers also emphasized how the 31-year-old "lacked the intent to deceive" despite her exaggerated claims and instead fully believed her company was "saving lives."
Holmes is "likely" to take testify at the trial herself, according to her lawyers.
The truth about her machines not working surfaced after the Wall Street Journal's John Carreyrou published a report in 2015 that her blood-testing machine was faulty. This was followed by a statement by the US Securities and Exchange Commission in 2018 accusing Holmes of conducting "an elaborate, years-long fraud."
Prosecutors said she knew this from the beginning. By September 2018, Theranos was shut down.
The Theranos founder faces up to two decades in prison on fraud and conspiracy charges about the accuracy and capability of her machines. Her trial starts on August 31 in San Jose, California after being repeatedly delayed for various reasons from the pandemic to her childbirth.