Experts say Stanford not competent for trial

AP News
Posted: Dec 21, 2011 7:38 PM
Experts say Stanford not competent for trial

Medical experts for jailed Texas financier R. Allen Stanford continued making their case Wednesday that he is not competent to be tried next month on charges he bilked investors out of $7 billion in a massive Ponzi scheme.

A neurologist and a forensic psychiatrist testified at a competency hearing that Stanford has a "significant traumatic brain injury" due mainly to head injuries the financier suffered during a jail fight in September 2009.

"He has difficulties with remembering both new and past events," said Dr. Ralph Lilly, a neurologist hired by Stanford's defense team. "He has difficulty with his judgment."

Victor Scarano, a forensic psychiatrist, testified that the brain injury, along with a major depressive disorder and post-traumatic stress disorder from the jail fight, has made Stanford incompetent for trial.

Federal prosecutors argue that Stanford is mentally stable and able to assist his attorneys in preparing his defense. They want Stanford's Jan. 23 trial to proceed.

Stanford had been declared incompetent in January due to an anti-anxiety drug addiction he developed while jailed in Houston. He spent more than eight months being treated at a federal prison hospital in Butner, N.C., for his addiction and to determine if he had any long-term effects from being injured in the jail fight.

A forensic psychologist who helped treat Stanford at the prison hospital previously testified the financier is now competent, can think clearly after being taken off the drug and has not suffered brain damage from the jail fight.

Lilly and Scarano told U.S. District Judge David Hittner at the hearing, which began Tuesday, that Stanford's brain injury makes him unable to assist his defense attorneys and to be ready for trial next month. Another medical expert has testified for Stanford, and a fourth and final expert began testifying late Wednesday. The competency hearing was to conclude on Thursday and Hittner says he expects to issue a ruling at that time.

Doctors who treated Stanford at the prison hospital accuse him of faking claims he now can't remember all events in his life prior to the prison fight.

Lilly and Scarano said they believe Stanford is not faking his symptoms. Lilly said that some of his memory loss is permanent. Lilly also testified that Stanford's treatment for other medical conditions, including heart and liver problems, complicated his brain injury and memory loss. Lilly said Stanford is delusional, claims to have spoken "with God and the devil" and has a history of depression, including a suicide attempt while jailed in Houston.

Scarano said he spoke with Stanford earlier Wednesday and believes "his condition has worsened."

While questioning Lilly, prosecutors suggested the neurologist was wrong in concluding Stanford suffered a traumatic brain injury and that many other medical experts believe such injuries are caused by repeated head trauma and not by one incident.

Prosecutor Gregg Costa, calling Stanford one of the greatest con men in history, tried to support the government's contention the financier is faking his memory loss by getting Scarano to admit the financier embellished those claims. Scarano said Stanford embellished his claims as a call for help.

Costa said Stanford has been able to file lawsuits or take part in other legal actions since being declared incompetent. Scarano, while questioned by Costa, said he didn't note Stanford had a serious brain injury when he examined the financier twice in 2010.

Stanford and three former executives of his now-defunct Stanford Financial Group are accused of orchestrating a colossal pyramid scheme that advised clients from 113 countries to invest more than $7 billion in certificates of deposit, or CDs, at the Stanford International Bank on the Caribbean island of Antigua, promising huge returns.

Authorities say Stanford and the executives fabricated the bank's records, bribed Antiguan regulators with investors' money from a secret Swiss bank account and misused funds to pay for Stanford's lavish lifestyle.

Stanford became a billionaire whose financial empire stretched across the U.S., the Caribbean and Latin America. His attorneys say he ran a legitimate business.

Stanford has been jailed since he was indicted in June 2009 by a federal grand jury in Houston, where his companies were headquartered.

He faces 14 counts, including wire and mail fraud.