By Jonathan Stempel
(Reuters) - U.S. prosecutors have asked a judge to sentence former Theranos Inc President Ramesh "Sunny" Balwani to 15 years in prison for defrauding investors and patients in the blood-testing startup once led by Elizabeth Holmes.
Balwani countered that probation, meaning no prison time, is sufficient, citing his own investment losses in a company once valued at $9 billion, and saying he never sought the "fame or media attention" that Holmes attracted as Theranos' public face.
The recommendations were filed on Wednesday night in the federal court in San Jose, California, where Balwani will be sentenced on Dec. 7 by U.S. District Judge Edward Davila.
On Nov. 18, the judge sentenced Holmes to 11-1/4 years in prison, calling Theranos a once-exciting venture "dashed by untruths, misrepresentations, plain hubris and lies."
She was convicted in January on four counts of fraud and conspiracy but acquitted of defrauding patients, while Balwani was convicted in January on all 12 fraud and conspiracy counts he faced.
Prosecutors also want a court order requiring Balwani to pay $803.8 million, which they acknowledge he does not have, to cover losses by investors including Walgreens, Safeway and the late U.S. Secretary of State George Shultz.
Holmes and Balwani were convicted of lying about Theranos' technology, which once offered hope that an array of medical diagnostic tests could be performed with just a few drops of blood.
Prosecutors said Balwani deserved a longer sentence than Holmes because his offenses, particularly the conspiracy to defraud patients with inaccurate blood tests, showed a "conscious or reckless risk of death or serious bodily injury."
Defense lawyers said there is no likelihood Balwani will commit another crime, and that he played a "demonstrably" lesser role than Holmes in the conduct underlying his conviction.
The case is U.S. v. Balwani, U.S. District Court, Northern District of California, No. 18-cr-00258.
(Reporting by Jonathan Stempel in New York; Editing by Bill Berkrot)