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Gen. Mattis just testified in one of the largest court cases in Silicon Valley history

Retired Gen. and former Secretary of Defense, James Mattis. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Piper A. Ballantine)
September 23, 2021

Former Defense Secretary Jim Mattis, a retired U.S. Marine Corps general, resurfaced on Wednesday to testify in the Silicon Valley fraud case against Elizabeth Holmes and her blood-testing tech startup, Theranos.

During the trial, Mattis testified that he had been interested in Theranos’ claimed technological breakthrough, which hoped would help save troops on the battlefield, the Associated Press reported.

Mattis ultimately joined Theranos’ board of directors in 2013, just a few months after retiring from the Marines after serving as a four-star general. He personally invested $85,000 of his own money into the start-up.

According to evidence submitted by Holmes’ lawyers, Theranos paid Mattis a $150,000 annual salary as a board member. Mattis testified he told Holmes he would serve on the company’s board for free because “I believe in what you are doing.”

Emails dating as far back as 2011, which were presented during the trial showed Mattis repeatedly referred to Holmes, then 27, as “young Elizabeth.” During the trial, Mattis said Holmes impressed him for being “sharp, articulate, committed.”

In August 2017, Holmes said she added Mattis to the Theranos board because “He’s one of the most brilliant strategists I’ve ever met.”

Mattis said that while he was impressed by Holmes “that didn’t take the place for having the device prove itself.”

In a 2011 email, Mattis said he wanted to get Theranos devices on military vessels on a trial basis

Theranos billed its lab technology as having the ability to perform more than 240 tests, ranging from cholesterol to cancer screenings, from just a few drops of blood.

Mattis ultimately left Theranos’ board in 2016, a year after the Wall Street Journal reported the company’s technology could not handle the wide range of blood tests it said it could and alleged the accuracy of those tests remained in doubt.

“There became a point where I didn’t know what to believe about Theranos anymore,” Mattis said, though he could not say specifically when he began to lose faith in Holmes.

CNN reported Holmes faces a dozen federal fraud and conspiracy charges and faces up to 20 years in prison if she is convicted.

Mattis is one of several high-profile investors in the start-up. Other investors have included former Secretary of State Henry Kissinger, former Wells Fargo Bank CEO Richard Kovacevich, media mogul Rupert Murdoch, and the Walton family, which founded Wal-Mart. Prosecutors have listed some of these high-profile figures as potential witnesses they may call upon during the trial.

Mattis is the seventh overall witness to be called to the stand in the case.