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Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Stanford Failed Every Mental Test for Uncovering Fakes, Doctor Testifies

By Laurel Brubaker Calkins - Dec 20, 2011 2:22 PM GMT-0400

R. Allen Stanford, the accused financier claiming he’s mentally unfit to stand trial next month, failed every test designed to expose fakers, a government psychologist testified.

“When it comes to the amnesia, I’m convinced that complaint is malingered,” Dr. Robert E. Cochrane, a staff psychologist at the Federal Bureau of Prisons’ medical center in Butner, North Carolina, said today at a hearing in federal court in Houston.

Depending on a ruling by U.S. District Judge David Hittner, Stanford, 61, will undergo further treatment or face a trial Jan. 23 on charges of running a Ponzi scheme that cost investors more than $7 billion and might put him prison for the rest of his life. Cochrane was the government’s first witness.

Stanford claims he can’t recall family vacations, his business dealings or romantic encounters with women because “59 years were stolen” by a jailhouse beating and anxiety drugs, the government said in court papers. The government says he is faking.

Stanford arrived in court today shackled, looking thin and alert in green prison clothes. He smiled at family members in the back of the courtroom after greeting his attorney and the lead prosecutor, saying softly, “Good Christmas.”

On every neuropsychological test designed to unmask feigning, “Mr. Stanford failed,” Cochrane said, “and that was pretty strong evidence he was exaggerating the memory loss.”

Rare Condition

The claim of complete retrograde amnesia, loss of the memory of things that happened before the event that caused it, is “remarkable” because the condition is so rare, the doctor said.

“ It happens so infrequently it’s hardly documented in the medical literature,” he said.

He said Stanford’s purported amnesia didn’t fit the pattern, because his memory was normal immediately after the jailhouse beating that his lawyers say caused the condition, then supposedly deteriorated when he arrived at the medical center more than a year later.

“ If the head injury was the source of his amnesia, how could he remember then and not now?” Cochrane asked. “You have amnesia right after the head injury, not after a delay.”

Stanford, the doctor said, performed so poorly on certain memory tests that “mentally retarded children did much better” on them.

Defense Filing

Ali R. Fazel, one of Stanford’s attorneys, said in a filing before the hearing that doctors’ testimony will show the Texas financier suffered a traumatic brain injury in jail made worse by “the cocktail of medications” administered in the federal lockup.

Hittner today ruled that Stanford’s former lawyer and mother, listed as witnesses by the defense, won’t be allowed to testify.

The judge said he’ll hear from “only the treating doctors” who can address Stanford’s ability to proceed to trial.

Stanford has been imprisoned as a flight risk since his June 2009 indictment on charges of defrauding investors through a scheme built on allegedly bogus certificates of deposit at Antigua-based Stanford International Bank Ltd.

Prosecutors say Stanford skimmed more than $1 billion of investor funds to acquire fleet of jets and yachts, multiple mansions and a private Caribbean island, as well as to give money to women with whom he had children.

Hittner delayed Stanford’s trial, first set for last January, after three doctors testified that the financier was incapable of assisting in his defense because of his drug dependency and potential effects from the head injury.

The case is U.S. v. Stanford, 09-cr-342, U.S. District Court, Southern District of Texas (Houston).

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