Last-ditch attempt to delay Stanford trial fails

AP News
Posted: Jan 18, 2012 4:45 PM
Last-ditch attempt to delay Stanford trial fails

A last-ditch attempt by attorneys for jailed Texas financier R. Allen Stanford to postpone his trial was unsuccessful. Stanford, charged with bilking investors out of $7 billion in a massive Ponzi scheme, goes on trial next week.

A federal judge on Wednesday ruled against Stanford's attorneys' request for a delay.

Jury selection is set for Monday, with testimony expected to last at least a month. Stanford's attorneys said they expect the financier will testify.

His attorneys had made several attempts within the last month to delay the trial, arguing that they have not had enough time to prepare their case because the financier was hospitalized most of last year after being declared incompetent. He spent more than eight months under treatment in a North Carolina federal prison hospital due to a prescription drug addiction he developed while jailed in Houston.

Stanford's attorneys had argued that the drug addiction, combined with a brain injury from a September 2009 jail fight, has left the financier unable to assist them in preparing a defense. Prosecutors had said doctors at the prison hospital found Stanford was competent, had no brain injury and that he had been faking claims he has lost much of his memory.

U.S. District Judge David Hittner last month said that Stanford was competent and his trial could proceed.

On Wednesday, Hittner rejected a final attempt by Stanford's attorneys to delay the trial because a member of the defense team that is working to organize documents has to have surgery.

Robert Scardino, one of Stanford's attorneys, continued to suggest the financier is not competent, an assertion that upset Hittner.

"You're still pushing that? ...My finding still remains. He is competent and ready to go," Hittner said.

Stanford and three former executives of his now-defunct Stanford Financial Group are accused of orchestrating a 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 and he would have been able to pay back investors. He 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.