Former Theranos CEO Holmes Spends Another Emotional Day in Court Centered on Her Ex-Lover

Former Theranos CEO Elizabeth Holmes spent another emotional day in court centered on her ex-lover and former Theranos COO Ramesh "Sunny" Balwani.

Holmes, 37, cried as she was asked by a federal prosecutor to read aloud some of the texts exchanged between her and Balwani, 56, during the five years while they were leading Theranos and living together in a romantic relationship.

"U are God's tigress and warrior. You are extraordinary," Balwani said to Holmes, according to 2015 documents shown in court Tuesday. Holmes replied with this text: "Coming from my tiger means the whole universe to me."

While looking at the texts, Holmes wiped away tears and her nose with a tissue, according to The Associated Press.

Holmes also had difficulty recalling key events leading to criminal fraud charges while prosecutors questioned her.

The day before, Holmes testified about her relationship with Balwani from 2005-2016, detailing his abusive and controlling behavior. One instance is that Balwani allegedly exploited Holmes' experience of being raped while at Stanford to control numerous aspects of her life.

The pair faces criminal fraud charges for making investors and patients believe that Theranos had developed a device that could look for hundreds of potential health problems with a few drops of blood. They had raised $1 billion before it was revealed Holmes was backing her claims with flawed data.

Holmes' trial began in early September and she will return to the stand Dec. 7. That could be the last day of her testimony, allowing for jury deliberations to possibly start at the end of next week.

If convicted, Holmes could be sentenced to up to 20 years in prison.

For more reporting from the Associated Press, see below.

Elizabeth Holmes, Theranos, Criminal Fraud
Elizabeth Holmes, founder and CEO of Theranos, left, leaves the Robert F. Peckham Federal Building in downtown San Jose, Calif., on Tuesday, May 4, 2021. The U.S. government rested its case in the trial of fallen Silicon Valley star Elizabeth Holmes on Friday, Nov 19, after spending more than two months trying to prove she bamboozled investors, patients and business partners into believing that her startup Theranos was about to reshape health care by using just a few drops for blood for tests that usually require vials of the stuff. Nhat V. Meyer/Bay Area News Group via AP, File

Balwani, who is being tried separately, is expected to face the court early next year. His attorney, Jeffrey Coopersmith, has denied Holmes' allegations of "intimate partner abuse." Coopersmith on Tuesday also told U.S. District Judge Edward Davila that Balwani would assert his Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination if he were called to testify in Holmes' trial.

Although Holmes has been on the stand since Nov. 19, Tuesday marked the first opportunity for federal prosecutors to grill her under oath.

Robert Leach, the government lawyer confronting Holmes, didn't touch upon Holmes' alleged rape nor her testimony about Balwani berating her, sometimes in profane terms. Instead, he used roughly 12,000 texts sent between Holmes and Balwani to counter her contention that they had a relationship that was more toxic than romantic.

At one point, Leach asked Holmes if she would be surprised if the word "love" appeared 594 times in the texts obtained by the government and the word "loving" was used 105 times. "No," Holmes said with a slight smile.

But Holmes spent much of Tuesday responding "I don't remember" and "I don't know" to Leach's questions about key incidents in the startup's history. She claimed forgetfulness so frequently that Leach made the phrase "let's see if I can refresh your memory" a common refrain as he presented her with document after document related to the fraud charges.

Leach seemed intent on proving that Holmes she knew she was making false statements to investors and Walgreens, which briefly used Theranos' blood tests in its pharmacies.

Holmes' apparent forgetfulness contrasted sharply with her clear recall of her interactions with Balwani — some of them dating back more than a decade.

But she also seemed to have reflected on her behavior at Theranos. She expressed remorse for the way she responded to the concerns of two former employees and her attempts to stop the 2015 publication of a Wall Street Journal expose that helped lead to Theranos' collapse.

"I could not say more strongly the way that we handled the Wall Street Journal process was a total disaster. We really messed up," Holmes said.

John Carreyrou, the reporter who wrote the Wall Street Journal story and a book about Theranos' rise and fall, sat in the back of the courtroom during Holmes' moment of contrition while taking notes for a podcast he has been doing about the trial.

Holmes also acknowledged she was too quick to dismiss warnings from the two former employees, Erika Cheung and Tyler Shultz, who reported that Theranos' blood-testing device — dubbed Edison — was delivering inaccurate results that could endanger patients' health.

"I sure as hell wished we treated her differently and listened to her," said Holmes of Cheung, who quit Theranos in exasperation after concluding her complaints were being ignored.

Ramesh "Sunny" Balwani, Elizabeth Holmes, Criminal Fraud
Former Theranos COO Ramesh "Sunny" Balwani is also facing charges of criminal fraud alongside former Theranos CEO Elizabeth Holmes and is expected to start trial early next year. In this photo, Balwani leaves the Robert F. Peckham U.S. Federal Court on April 22, 2019 in San Jose, California. Justin Sullivan/Getty Images