Bobby Allyn |
NPRMonday, January 24, 2022
Elizabeth Holmes walks into federal court in San Jose, Calif., in January 2022.
On October 5, 2003, the Santa Clara County Sheriff's office received a call at 10 pm. Someone named Elizabeth Holmes was reporting a sexual assault on the Stanford University campus.
The Sheriff's office dispatched deputies to the campus to investigate the alleged sexual assault, according to a document obtained by NPR through a public records request.
At that time, Holmes was a student at Stanford. She was 19, the same year she founded Theranos.
Last month, she was convicted of defrauding investors by lying about the capability of Theranos' blood-testing technology.
During the trial, Holmes took the witness stand over seven days. Some of the most emotional moments took place when she described being an alleged victim of rape more than a decade ago.
"I was raped when I was at Stanford," she testified from the stand.
As tears flowed down, Holmes spoke haltingly about how that incident deeply affected her. She said it ultimately propelled her to devote all of her energy to Theranos.
"I was questioning what — how I was going to be able to process that experience and what I wanted to do with my life," Holmes said. "And I decided that I was going to build a life by building this company."
Holmes, who is free on bond and faces a sentencing hearing with the possibility of prison time this fall, testified during her trial that the sexual assault played a part in her decision to drop out of college and pursue Theranos, the blood-testing company that was worth $9 billion before it collapsed in scandal.
Until now, the existence of the alleged assault incident report has not been publicly known. The Santa Clara County Sheriff's office originally rejected NPR's request for a copy of the report, citing a legal exemption. But after NPR's lawyers fought the denial, the agency provided a document.
It provides scant details. It says on October 5, 2003, between 1 and 3 a.m., there was an alleged sexual assault. Later that same day, at 10 p.m., a call was made to authorities about the incident. Deputies responded and took down a written report, details of which was not included in the document from the sheriff's office.
According to the document, a sexual assault had occurred at "550 Lausen Mall," which appears to be a misspelling of 550 Lasuen Mall, formerly the fraternity house of Sigma Chi at Stanford, which is now seeking reinstatement after a controversy.
This fraternity house has had issues for years. In 2003, according to a "Stanford Report" Sigma Chi was cited for a history of conduct problems, failure to implement residential programming and "a lack of responsiveness" of house leadership in working with university officials, among other issues.
It is the same fraternity house where in 2018, seven Stanford students were suspected of being drugged by a non-Stanford student at a party. This prompted its suspension and a legal battle over the frat's future on campus.
A lawyer for Holmes, Kevin Downey, did not reply to multiple inquiries seeking comment. Stanford has also not responded to NPR's request for comment.
The document provided by authorities on Monday about Holmes' reported sexual assault does not specify an alleged perpetrator, nor does it describe any details about the alleged incident.
Holmes also said from the stand that when she told her ex-boyfriend Ramesh "Sunny" Balwani about the experience at Stanford, he vowed to protect her.
"He said I was safe now that I had met him," she testified.
Holmes accused Balwani of verbal and sexual abuse during the duo's relationship. Balwani, who was also an executive at Theranos, has denied the allegations through a lawyer. Prosecutors have also charged him on fraud charges stemming from the unraveling of Theranos. He faces a separate trial scheduled for March.
Holmes' court testimony about the Stanford sexual assault was the first time the public heard her speak directly to the incident. It did, however, receive a brief mention in the bestselling book on Theranos, "Bad Blood" by journalist John Carreyrou.
In it, Carreyrou reports that when Theranos was in damage control mode as it was confronting mounting questions about the efficacy of the company's blood-testing devices, she floated the idea of going public with the sexual assault account as a way of generating sympathy, but her advisers counseled against it.
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