Las víctimas olvidadas de Stanford ahora disponible en español

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Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Judge refuses to release Stanford

Texas investment promoter Robert Allen Stanford tried just before Christmas to persuade a federal judge to release him from prison pending his $7 billion fraud trial in January 2011.

It was the second such attempt by Stanford, 59, who is alleged to have wrecked the retirement dreams of 30,000 investors from Baton Rouge to Brazil and other points around the world.

U.S. District Judge David Hittner needed just a single word to rule on the request: “Denied.”

Stanford’s defense team — Houston attorneys Kent A. Schaffer and George McCall Secrest Jr. — did not return calls Monday.

They argued in their pre-Christmas filing with Hittner that Stanford’s health has deteriorated during the six months that he has been in custody since his June indictment.

The defense attorneys added that a prison beating Stanford suffered in September contributed to his decline.

Schaffer and Secrest also argued the millions of documents involved in Stanford’s criminal case make it impossible for him to meaningfully participate in the planning of his defense while he remains at the federal detention center in Houston.

Another key point in their argument referred to confessed swindler Bernard Madoff of New York, who was allowed to remain free on bond before he pleaded guilty to felony charges that netted him a prison term of 150 years.

Madoff, whose frauds totaled more than $50 billon, and several other recently convicted white-collar criminals did not flee prior to their convictions, Schaffer and Secrest noted.

Stanford appealed Hittner’s initial refusal to permit him release on bond to the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in New Orleans.

Circuit judges Edith Brown Clement, Priscilla Owen and Emilio Garza upheld Hittner’s decision in August, ruling that “Stanford’s arguments are without merit.”

The 5th Circuit panel also said in August: “Stanford has the means, the motive and the money to flee.”

In Baton Rouge on Monday, attorney Winston G. Decuir Jr. said Stanford’s new argument concerning the pre-trial release of Madoff and other white-collar criminals might justify another appeal to the 5th Circuit. Decuir is not involved with the Stanford case.

Decuir, who regularly practices in federal courts, said Stanford’s argument for pre-trial release does not carry a high chance of success.

“It wouldn’t surprise me to see federal prosecutors use the Bernie Madoff case the other way,” Decuir said, noting that Madoff received a prison term of 150 years.

“No one expected Bernie Madoff to get that kind of time,” Decuir said.

Younger people convicted of massive white-collar crimes might not run from a 10-year prison term, Decuir said.

Many people might be tempted to run from possible prison terms in excess of a century. And prosecutors probably would use that argument in any debate over Stanford’s requested release, Decuir added.

The 5th Circuit also may not be impressed by Stanford’s argument that he needs release from prison to help his attorneys sift through millions of documents, Decuir said.

“Today, you can put a million pages on a CD-ROM, slap it in a laptop and meet with your client in prison,” Decuir noted.

Stanford has developed heart problems since his arrest and undergone surgery for an aneurysm, his attorneys told Hittner last week.

When Stanford was beaten at a detention center near Conroe, Texas, his attorneys told the judge, he suffered a broken nose and fractures near his right eye that required reconstructive surgery.

The attorneys added that Stanford has lost 40 pounds and sometimes coughs up blood.

Decuir said, however, that reports of deteriorating health often are not “sufficient to persuade a judge to change his or her mind.”

Approximately $1 billion of the Stanford losses occurred in the Baton Rouge, Lafayette and Covington areas, state Rep. Bodi White, R-Central, and Baton Rouge lawyer Phillip W. Preis estimated earlier this year.

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