Coronavirus-linked setbacks spur trial delay for Theranos COO 'Sunny' Balwani

Coronavirus-linked setbacks spur trial delay for Theranos COO 'Sunny' Balwani

02/11/2021

Elizabeth Holmes, Sunny Balwani enter federal court building in California

Former Theranos President Sunny Balwani enters a federal court building in San Jose, California accompanied by his legal team, followed by its former CEO Elizabeth Holmes.

The trial for embattled Theranos executive Ramesh “Sunny” Balwani has been pushed back to January 2022 after his colleague and rumored girlfriend Elizabeth Holmes’ court date was pushed back amid novel coronavirus concerns, records show.

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Balwani, much like the health care tech founder Holmes, is due to stand trial on accusations that he deliberately misled investors, policymakers and the public about the accuracy of Theranos’ blood-testing technologies.

Both have pleaded not guilty to wire fraud and conspiracy to commit wire fraud. If convicted, they could each face maximum penalties of 20 years in prison and a $2.75 million fine, plus possible restitution, the Department of Justice said.

ELIZABETH HOLMES' $4.5B FORTUNE, LUXURY LIFESTYLE 'CREATED POWERFUL MOTIVE' FOR FRAUD, PROSECUTORS SAY

The trial for Balwani, who served as Theranos’ chief operating officer before his ouster, is set to begin with jury selection on Jan. 11, 2022, with the trial officially kicking off one week later, according to records from the Northern District of California.

Elizabeth Holmes (Reuters); Ramesh “Sunny” Balwani (Getty Images)

During a Tuesday conference call on the matter, U.S. District Judge Edward Davila said Balwani’s new trial date was “really the most realistic” as COVID-19-related challenges will create a new kind of trial experience, Law360.com reported.

ELIZABETH HOLMES' TRIAL DELAYED AMID CORONAVIRUS CONCERNS

Holmes’ separate trial was pushed back to July 2021 – four months later than its original start date – as a result of the pandemic, previously filed court papers show.

Even prior to the news of the date change, Davila warned that attorneys and defendants should expect “a very different trial of course in the COVID timeframe,” Yahoo Finance reported. He previously outlined plans for how the trial would move forward while remaining in accordance with virus-related guidelines.

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“I will be able to secure clear face masks for witnesses,” Davila said, according to the report. He said the Northern District of California is also considering providing air filtration in the area of the witness stand. “The issue is … what do we do as far as cleanup, if you will, after – sanitizing after a witness testifies?”

Sunny Balwani, former president and chief operating officer of Theranos Inc., arrives at federal court in San Jose, California, U.S., on Wednesday, Oct. 2, 2019. (Michael Short/Bloomberg via Getty Images)

The layout of the courtroom will be changed to ensure the 14-person jury and all other parties will be able to follow social distancing guidelines, the jurist said, according to the news site.

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One of the more prominent concerns was the reality that a juror, defense attorneys, prosecutors or even Davila could fall ill during the trial and be unable to proceed or become exposed and be required to quarantine.

He also said he had concerns regarding the circulation of physical evidence and documents that would usually be shared or sent around during the proceedings.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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