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Elizabeth Holmes seeks to avoid prison for Theranos fraud

Theranos founder Elizabeth Holmes  and her family leave the federal courthouse after attending her fraud trial in San Jose

Elizabeth Holmes urged a U.S. judge not to send her to prison, as the founder of Theranos Inc prepares to be sentenced next week for defrauding investors in the blood testing startup.

In a Thursday night court filing, lawyers for Holmes asked that she receive 18 months of home confinement, followed by community service, at her Nov. 18 sentencing before U.S. District Judge Edward Davila in San Jose, California.

The lawyers said prison time was unnecessary to deter future wrongdoing, calling Holmes, 38, a “singular human with much to give” and not the robotic, emotionless “caricature” seen by the public and media.

“No defendant should be made a martyr to public passion,” the lawyers wrote. “We ask that the court consider, as it must, the real person, the real company and the complex circumstances surrounding the offense.”

A jury convicted Holmes in January on four counts of wire fraud and conspiracy. Each count carries a maximum 20-year prison term. Any sentence would likely be served concurrently.

Prosecutors said Holmes lied to investors from 2010 to 2015 by promising Theranos’ technology could run many tests on one drop of blood from a finger prick.

On Monday, Davila rejected Holmes’ requests for a new trial, including over a claim that a key prosecution witness visited her at home and made statements that undermined his testimony.

Holmes founded Theranos in 2003 at age 19, before dropping out of Stanford University. Theranos was once valued at $9 billion, and Forbes magazine in 2015 estimated Holmes’ net worth at $4.5 billion.

More than 130 friends, family, investors and former Theranos employees submitted letters to Davila urging leniency.

They included former Berkshire Hathaway Inc (BRKa.N) executive David Sokol, who called Holmes a “person of high integrity” who believed in her technology, and U.S. Senator Cory Booker of New Jersey, who said Holmes “can, despite mistakes, make the world a better place.”

Theranos’ former president, Ramesh “Sunny” Balwani, was convicted in July of defrauding investors and patients about the company. His sentencing is scheduled for Dec. 7.

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