Elizabeth Holmes is facing up to 15 years in prison for defrauding Theranos investors, and she is using all of the marketing skills that let her do that in the first place to argue against a harsh penalty. In a robust sentencing memorandum filed on Friday, every single person who still has something nice to say about the disgraced former CEO wrote a letter to Judge Edward Davila. The report’s contents range from brief notes from former employees (“I believe in her character,” wrote former Theranos machinist Jason Lu) to photo collages of Holmes with her child to a letter from Cory Booker. It’s kind of like a mixed-media group project where getting an A means that someone stays out of prison.
The first letter comes from Billy Evans, Holmes’s husband, who broke his eight-page letter into sections with titles like “Our Love” and “The Price We Will Always Pay.” In the section titled “Dreams, Lessons, and Possibilities,” Evans finally answers the question many of us have been asking: What ever happened to Balto, the husky that Holmes insisted on telling people was a wolf?
Well, Balto died.
A mountain lion “carried him away” from the couple’s front porch. Holmes, always delusional, thought that he might still be alive and, as Evans tells it, “searched for 16 hours in brambles, and poison oak to find him. It was only once she saw his lifeless body that she could come to realize that he was gone.”
“But that's Liz for you, she's constantly hoping and working towards the best outcome, even if it is unlikely,” Evans wrote. “She believes deeply in the goodness of the world and all those around her. She is deeply guided by faith.” It is unclear if he means to say that Holmes believed that God would never let a mountain lion kill a dog.
Balto had a good run, though. In a 2019 Vanity Fair report on the downfall of Theranos, it was revealed that Balto got to spend his days by Holmes’s side, even when she walked through the lab where scientists were constantly telling her that dog fur could contaminate samples. The Theranos office was his castle, and he made sure everyone knew it.
“Balto frequently urinated and defecated at will throughout Theranos headquarters,” Nick Bilton reported. “While Holmes held board meetings, Balto could be found in the corner of the room relieving himself while a frenzied assistant was left to clean up the mess.”
Holmes, ever convinced of the importance of doing good in the world, even signed him up to be trained for search and rescue. Balto, who again was known to shit wherever he pleased, unfortunately did not pass training. However that doesn’t mean that he and his owner didn’t leave an indelible mark on Tim Houwelig, the canine coordinator tasked with training Balto.
In his own letter to Judge Davila, Houwelig wrote that “Balto ultimately did not show the abilities required of a search and rescue dog, but Elizabeth and I became friends.” How sweet!
“Elizabeth would routinely volunteer to be buried in rubble as a volunteer victim for the dogs to find,” he wrote. “Elizabeth was willing to do this to ensure the dogs and handlers received the best training possible.” It’s not too surprising that Holmes excelled at pretending to be a victim.
Rest in peace, dear Balto. You were not a wolf, as Holmes often told people, but a mere dog who got taken too soon by a mountain lion. I’m sure you’re looking down from heaven right now, writing your own letter of support for your mom. It probably would be like, “Bark bark,” and Judge Davila would have no choice but to give her 18 months of house arrest.