SAN JOSE (KPIX 5) – Former Secretary of Defense James Mattis took the stand in Elizabeth Holmes’ fraud trial on Wednesday, saying he believed technology from Theranos could have helped U.S. troops.
Mattis told the jury he first met Holmes, former CEO of the now-defunct startup, backstage at an event in San Francisco sometime in 2011 or 2012.
“She pricked my finger,” he recalled, to give him some idea of what her company’s device could do with just a drop of blood.
Mattis said Holmes was “sharp, articulate, committed and confident.”
“It was breathtaking what she was doing,” the four-star general said.
Mattis later accepted her offer to join the Theranos board of directors and invest $85,000 of his own money to “have some skin in the game.”
“This fits into the government’s narrative about how persuasive and convincing Elizabeth Holmes can be. That she was able to get James Mattis to both invest in Theranos and join its board,” Steve Clark, a former prosecutor and legal analyst, told KPIX 5.
“She was trying to give gravitas to the Theranos board by bringing in this American hero,” Clark went on to say.
Mattis said he wanted to get the Theranos device “in theatre” in the Middle East to run tests as soon as possible because of a high number of casualties at the time.
Over time, Mattis said he lost hope in the technology.
“It’s really important that the government says this isn’t just about billionaires losing money. This is about people like Jim Mattis,” Clark said.
Also on Wednesday, a forensic investigator testified about a series of texts between Holmes and her then-boyfriend and business partner Sunny Balwani in 2014.
“Normandy lab is a f-ing disaster zone,” Balwani texted. “Need to focus on ops. Getting hurt in market. Customer service seems to be terrible. Everyone complaining.”
Holmes replied, “Yes”
Balwani said, “There is too much hype around Theranos and you… I am worried about over exposure.”
Holmes replied “I agree.”
Holmes was also concerned about negative press.
“Wall Street Journal guy might show up tomorrow,” she texted. “Seems like this guy is looking to write something negative.”
“What’s important with all these text messages is that they put Ms. Holmes and Mr. Balwani on notice about all the problems at Theranos,” Clark said.