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Friday, December 24, 2010

Stanford's Lawyers Say They Need Two More Years to Prepare for Fraud Trial

Source:Laurel Brubaker Calkins (Bloomberg)


Lawyers for R. Allen Stanford, the Texas financier accused of a $7 billion Ponzi scheme, asked to delay a trial set to begin Jan. 24 for at least two years so they can prepare their defense.

Stanford’s trial preparation suffered during the first nine months of this year because his previous lawyer “focused on attempting to obtain funds from the insurance provider” more than on the financier’s defense,” the lawyers, Ali Fazel and Richard Scardino, said yesterday in a court filing. “During this period of time, the accused determined that little progress was made toward actual trial preparation.”

Fazel and Scardino were appointed as Stanford’s attorneys in October, after U.S. District Judge David Hittner in Houston declared the former billionaire indigent. They told Hittner in October that they would try to be ready for a January trial, which was then about 90 days away.

In requesting a delay yesterday, the lawyers said they won’t have enough time to properly analyze more than 5 million documents and dozens of potential witnesses before the current trial date.

Stanford, 60, has been detained as a flight risk since June 2009 on charges he swindled investors through the sale of bogus certificates of deposit by Antigua-based Stanford International Bank Ltd. His lawyers also have asked that Stanford be released on bond, claiming he is too heavily medicated in prison to participate in his defense.

Mental Fitness

Stanford’s personal doctor declared him incompetent to stand trial in court papers this month, and his lawyers have asked for a hearing to gauge the financier’s mental fitness, according to court records. Prosecutors received court approval to conduct their own psychiatric evaluation of Stanford, according to court records.

Fazel said in yesterday’s filing that the government, while it doesn’t oppose a delay, “wishes to be heard on the length of the continuance.”

Laura Sweeney, a Justice Department spokeswoman, declined to comment.

Stanford, who denies all wrongdoing, is on his fifth team of criminal defense lawyers after losing a court fight over access to $100 million in legal defense insurance coverage through his Stanford Financial Group of companies.

Stanford fired two successive criminal-defense lawyers in 2009 after each experienced what they described as personality and strategic conflicts with the jailed financier. Stanford was also briefly represented by the Houston Federal Public Defender’s Office and by two lawyers who were allowed to withdraw from the case after Stanford lost his insurance coverage in September.

Jets, Yachts, Island

Stanford was ranked by Forbes magazine as one of the world’s richest men in 2008, with an estimated net worth of more than $2 billion including a fleet of jets, yachts and a private Caribbean island. All of his corporate and personal assets were frozen by court order when the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission accused him of running a “massive” Ponzi scheme in February 2009.

The criminal case is U.S. v. Stanford, 09-cr-00342, U.S. District Court, Southern District of Texas (Houston). The SEC case is Securities and Exchange Commission v. Stanford International Bank, 09-cv-00298, U.S. District Court, Northern District of Texas (Dallas).

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