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Balwani trial delayed due to Covid exposure

A person had contact with someone who tested positive for the novel coronavirus, leading the judge to delay opening arguments for at least a few days.

SAN JOSE, Calif. (CN) — The eagerly anticipated opening arguments in the Sunny Balwani trial slated for Wednesday morning in San Jose were delayed due to a Covid exposure during jury selection. 

“That person had contact with someone else who tested positive for Covid, so out of an abundance of caution, we are going to delay today’s proceedings,” said U.S. District Judge Edward Davila told a packed courtroom, with at least five attorneys per side, a full slate of jurors and their alternates and a solid press gaggle there to cover the eagerly anticipated trial. Balwani was in person at the trial on Friday, dressed in a grey suit, and did not react when the judge announced the delay. 

Balwani stands accused of multiple counts of fraud in relation to his time as the chief operating officer of Theranos, a now-defunct Palo Alto-based blood testing company that once attracted nearly a billion dollars in investments before allegations of duplicity and fraud sunk the once promising company. 

A federal jury convicted Elizabeth Holmes, the CEO and founder of Theranos and former romantic partner of Balwani, on four counts of fraud in January after a lengthy trial that ran nearly four months and featured hours of meticulous and sometimes technical testimony. 

Holmes will not be sentenced until September and speculation in legal circles is rampant that Holmes may cut a deal to stay out of jail and testify against her former partner. 

However, others feel Holmes is prepared to fight until the end, will almost assuredly appeal her conviction and would not cut a deal with federal prosecutors. 

Wednesday’s delay is anticlimatic for the attorneys who have prepared months for the opening remarks, one of the most important elements of any trial. 

"I am going to exercise caution when these issues arise,” Davila said. 

The judge also offered the jurors test kits and promised he would proceed with their safety in mind. 

Balwani is expected to foist the blame for problems at Theranos on Holmes, who admitted she doctored logos to make it appear internally produced documents were the work of other pharmaceutical companies like Pfizer. 

During evidentiary arguments, Balwani’s attorneys argued their client, much like the parade of investors who visited Theranos between 2009 and 2015, was swindled by the charismatic and duplicitous Holmes. 

Government attorneys will argue Balwani was a partner in the deception and used his considerable business experience to help Holmes swindle investors. 

Davila set opening arguments for Friday but said they could be delayed until next week. 

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