Days before Theranos founder Elizabeth Holmes is to go on trial for alleged felony fraud in San Jose, the judge on Saturday released redacted documents showing she will claim her former lover and the company’s president Sunny Balwani abused and coerced her. “For over a decade, Ms. Holmes and Mr. Balwani had an abusive intimate-partner relationship, in which Mr. Balwani exercised psychological, emotional, and (redacted) over Ms. Holmes,” a filing from Holmes’ legal team claims. “This pattern of abuse and coercive control continued … during the period of the charged conspiracies.” A court filing by Holmes’ legal team also refers to her “potentially debilitating” symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder. A 2020 filing from Balwani’s team that was released Saturday also indicates Holmes will make “allegations of sexual abuse” against him. Another Balwani filing said Holmes plans to claim before the jury that Balwani disparaged her, “withdrew affection if she displeased him,” and controlled what she ate, how she dressed, how much money she spent and whom she interacted with, “erasing her capacity” for decision making. Holmes will claim Balwani monitored her movements, calls, text messages and emails; committed “physical violence” such as throwing hard, sharp objects at her; and restricted her sleep, the filing said. Balwani’s lawyers, in a filing last year responding to the formerly sealed claims by Holmes, said he “categorically denies Ms. Holmes’ allegations.” Her legal team did not immediately respond to a request for comment on the just-released documents. Prosecutors in a filing said, “The only evidence supporting Holmes’ allegations of sexual abuse at the hands of Balwani are her own statements.” Holmes, according to a court filing, “is likely to testify herself to the reasons why she believed, relied on, and deferred to Mr. Balwani.” Holmes and Balwani, charged with a dozen fraud counts in connection with the now-defunct Palo Alto blood-testing startup she founded in 2003 as a Stanford University dropout, are to be tried separately in U.S. District Court in San Jose. Jury selection for Holmes’ trial is set to start Tuesday. Prosecutors allege Holmes and Balwani, while claiming Theranos’ machines could conduct a full range of tests on just a few drops of blood from a finger-stick, knew the technology was unreliable, inaccurate and could conduct only a limited number of tests. The government claims “many hundreds” of patients were defrauded, with investors bilked out of more than $700 million. Holmes and Balwani have denied the allegations. The abuse claims emerged in connection with the proposed trial testimony of psychologist Dr. Mindy Mechanic, a relationship-trauma specialist who examined Holmes. Holmes’ lawyers have said in a filing that Mechanic’s testimony would cover a mental condition affecting “the issue of guilt.” A letter to a Balwani lawyer from a Holmes lawyer said Mechanic would tell the court and jury about Balwani’s “intimate partner violence/abuse” of Holmes. Mechanic also will testify about “the developmental, historical and psychological factors that made Ms. Holmes particularly vulnerable to the trauma that she suffered” and “the abusive tactics used by Mr. Balwani that allowed him to exert control over her, and the psychological impact of the relationship on Ms. Holmes during the time period of the relationship and in connection with the charged conspiracy.” A filing by Holmes’ team concerning her claim to have suffered “intimate partner abuse” says victims may capitulate to their abuser to increase their chance of survival or cut the risk of “escalated abuse or violence.” Holmes, reported to have given birth last month, is facing maximum penalties of 20 years in prison and a $2.75 million fine, plus possible restitution, the Department of Justice has said.
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