Former Theranos CEO Elizabeth Holmes arrived in San Jose, California on July 17, 2019 for a hearing in federal court.
Stephen Lam | Reuters
San Jose, Calif. – Former Safeway CEO Steve Bird testified in Elizabeth Holmes ‘criminal fraud trial on Wednesday that repeated delays in Theranos’ blood test machine raised the red flag over his company’s failed million-dollar partnership with the healthcare startup.
“Deadlines continued to be missed and we were often not given an explanation for it,” Bird told the jury. “I kept asking ‘give me some details here.’ So that was the frustrating part. We always tried to help them in any way we could. “
Bird’s testimony came on the same day when a judge on the trail revealed that he would have a hard time sending Holmes to jail, the judge would ask him to pardon him from the case.
In anticipation of blood-testing technology, Safeway has spent more than 300 300 million building clinics in its hundreds of grocery stores. The idea of the partnership is to “get those blood test results when you’re shopping and before you go,” Bird said.
Bird has served as CEO of Safeway for two decades. He testified that he was initially fascinated by Holmes and his vision for creating cheap and fast blood testing technology for his customers.
“I was very impressed,” Bird said. “There were very few people I met in the business that I really called charismatic. He was charismatic, he was very smart and he’s doing one of the hardest things you can do in a business and it’s from the beginning to build an enterprise.”
The former Theranos CEO is fighting 12 counts of wire fraud and wire fraud conspiracy. Federal prosecutors allege that Holmes and his chief executive, Ramesh “Sunny” Balwani, are involved in a multi-million dollar scheme to defraud investors and patients. Holmes and Balwani pleaded not guilty.
Bird testified that he saw the partnership with Theranos as a safeway opportunity to expand the healthcare world. Minilab, however, has repeatedly raised delays, red flags with Theranos’ blood-testing machine.
Bird testified that Holmes demonstrated the device at a board meeting. They performed a prostate-antigen test on a board member. Bird recalled that “the blood was drawn, it went into the machine and we never got results.”
Bird further testified that Holmes never disclosed to him that he was in a romantic relationship with Balwani.
“It just raises questions about what else is hidden,” Bird said.
‘It’s really hard for me,’ Jurar said
George came to the judge’s urging with an excuse to the 4th jury.
“It’s really hard for me,” he told the judge. “I wonder what if he has to stay there for a long, long time. It’s my fault, and I feel guilty for it.” The judge said he believes in love, compassion and forgiveness.
U.S. District Court Judge Edward DeVilla said, “Your job as a judge is only to determine the veracity of the case, you will not prescribe any punishment at all.” “It’s a court decision. It’s not your decision.”
Danny Sevallos, a legal analyst at NBC News, said pardoning a judge because they show excessive sympathy for a defendant is “incredibly rare.”
“Maybe we should have seen this come,” Sevallos said. “After all, Elizabeth Holmes successfully impressed some of the most high-profile, most respected people, including Henry Kissinger, George Schultz and James Mattis. What’s particularly surprising is that she made this impact on the judges without saying a word. She sat at the defense table.”
It was the second judge to seek pardon from Holmes’ trial.
In September, DeVilla pardoned a 19-year-old woman for financial hardship. There are now three alternative juries from the original five.
Sevalos warned that losing many alternative juries carries the risk of a misjudgment.
“It was a great judge to keep the defense,” Sevallos said. “I’m sure they’re mourning the loss of a judge who has been emotionally charged with Elizabeth Holmes.”
His replacement, Alternate Jury No. 2, expressed similar discomfort after sitting on the main bench. The judge said he was concerned about how his role in the verdict would affect Holmes’ future.
“She’s so young,” the judge said, looking at Holmes. “I don’t know if I’m 100% ready to participate in something like this, English being my first language, so I don’t know.”
Davila reminded the jury that he would not be responsible for the possible punishment in that case and that a varied jury was important. Holmes’s federal prosecutor and defense attorney agreed that he could be on the jury.