Attorneys for two former employees of disgraced financier Allen Stanford asked a federal judge Tuesday to dismiss charges they illegally shredded thousands of documents unless a key witness gets immunity.
The lawyers for Thomas Raffanello _ former chief of Miami's U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration office _ and Bruce Perraud claim prosecutors tried to intimidate the witness so he won't provide favorable defense testimony in their trial next year.
Raffanello, former head of global security for Stanford Financial Group, and Perraud face a four-count indictment stemming from the document destruction that occurred as Stanford's banking empire was crumbling in February.
"The government has deliberately manipulated the situation so the defense does not have access to that testimony," said Perraud attorney Ed Shohat.
Prosecutors denied the misconduct claims, contending that the witness _ former Stanford employee Anthony Belovich, also an ex-DEA agent _ cannot get immunity because was not entirely candid in interviews with FBI agents and remains under investigation. He is listed as an unindicted co-conspirator in court documents.
Without immunity, Belovich will invoke his Fifth Amendment right not to take the stand for the defense, according to his lawyer.
Jack Patrick, a litigator with the U.S. Justice Department's fraud section, said whether Belovich is eventually charged could hinge on an attempt by agents to painstakingly piece together thousands of shredded documents to find new evidence of wrongdoing. Patrick told U.S. Magistrate Judge Robin Rosenbaum the defense attorneys had not proven prosecutor misconduct.
"There's a lot of talk, but there's no there," Patrick said.
Rosenbaum did not issue an immediate ruling.
Attorneys for Raffanello and Perraud say that Belovich has told the FBI that documents were routinely shredded at Stanford's office in Fort Lauderdale and that all papers were backed up in digital form on a computer server. If true, that testimony would bolster defense claims that the shredding did not violate a court order requiring preservation of Stanford documents _ and therefore, no crime was committed.
"This case is an attempt to make something out of nothing," said Raffanello attorney Richard Sharpstein. "It has absolutely no legs to stand on."
Raffanello and Perraud are currently scheduled to stand trial beginning Jan. 19. The four charges against them carry a maximum combined 50-year prison sentence.
Stanford remains jailed without bail in Houston awaiting trial on charges that his international banking firm, with offices in Antigua, Houston, Miami and elsewhere, was in reality a $7 billion Ponzi scheme in which older investors were paid with an ever-increasing roster of new investors. Stanford has pleaded not guilty.