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Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Appellate court: Stanford criminal case stays put

An appellate court today refused to move R. Allen Stanford's criminal case to a new federal judge as the fallen billionaire requested.

A three-member panel of the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals denied the request in a one-sentence order.

Houston civil attorney Michael Sydow and Washington criminal defense lawyer Robert Luskin had asked that Senior U.S. District Judge David Hittner be removed from the case and it be moved to U.S. District Judge Vanessa Gilmore, who drew the first case against one of Stanford's codefendants. Stanford and others are accused of bilking investors in a $7 billion fraud.

“We're disappointed in the result but hopeful that Mr. Stanford will ultimately be permitted to be represented by counsel of his choice,” Luskin said Tuesday.

Luskin and Sydow argued Hittner exhibited “unexplained hostility” in refusing Sydow's request to make an appearance and in ordering that Sydow have no further involvement in the criminal case.

Sydow asked the court to consider him Stanford's lawyer for the limited purpose of receiving notices on a motion filed by Luskin's firm, Patton Boggs, which wants assurance it will be paid before it agrees to represent Stanford.

Houston criminal defense lawyer Dick DeGuerin has asked to be released from the case but Hittner has required DeGuerin stay on until another lawyer enters unconditionally on Stanford's behalf.

Today's appellate ruling came just hours after prosecutors Gregg Costa and Paul Pelletier asked the court to deny Stanford's request to move the case. They said the request for appellate intervention was premature and that allowing attorneys into the case conditionally would cause delay.

The prosecutors said Hittner did not display bias against Sydow and that the matter of fees could be resolved in other courts.

Stanford has not been able to pay his lawyers because his personal assets were frozen along with his company's assets in a civil suit filed in Dallas by the Securities and Exchange Commission. Attorneys for several Stanford-related entities and individuals are attempting to be paid through unfrozen assets or an insurance policy.

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