Allen Stanford incompetent for trial: judge

SAN FRANCISCO Thu Jan 27, 2011 8:53am EST

Allen Stanford arrives at federal court for a hearing before U.S. District Judge Nancy Atlas in Houston August 24, 2010. REUTERS/Richard Carson

Allen Stanford arrives at federal court for a hearing before U.S. District Judge Nancy Atlas in Houston August 24, 2010.

Credit: Reuters/Richard Carson

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SAN FRANCISCO (Reuters) - Financier Allen Stanford is incompetent to stand trial at this time over accusations that he led a $7 billion fraud, a U.S. judge in Texas ruled on Wednesday.

Stanford, who had been accustomed to jetting around the globe in private aircraft, was indicted in 2009 on 21 counts including securities fraud and money laundering. U.S. prosecutors accuse him of creating false accounting records, lying to investors and bribing a regulatory official in Antigua.

Stanford has pleaded not guilty and was previously scheduled to begin trial this week. But that was postponed amid uncertainty about his condition.

In a written ruling, U.S. District Judge David Hittner found that Stanford did not have the present mental capacity to assist his lawyers in his defense.

While incarcerated, Stanford sustained a head injury during a 2009 confrontation with another inmate and underwent surgery for repair of facial fractures.

Psychiatrists for both the government and the defense who examined Stanford also recommended that his anti-anxiety medication be withdrawn. One doctor testified that it was unclear whether Stanford is incompetent for trial because of the injury, or due to over-medication.

The government contends that Stanford is legally competent, but nevertheless asked the court to move him to a suitable facility for psychiatric evaluation.

A representative for the U.S. Attorney's office in Houston was not immediately available to comment on Wednesday.

Hittner rejected defense arguments that the judge could commit Stanford to a private medical facility. Instead, Hittner recommended that Stanford be sent to a medical facility within the U.S. Bureau of Prisons for treatment.

Ali Fazel, an attorney for Stanford, said once Stanford is weaned off his medication, additional tests will determine how much damage was caused by the prison injury, and the drugs.

"We just have to take it a step at a time," Fazel said.

The judge did not specify a new trial date, though he admonished attorneys on both sides to diligently prepare despite Stanford's absence.

The case in U.S. District Court, Southern District of Texas is United States v. Robert Allen Stanford, 09-cr-342.

(Reporting by Dan Levine; Editing by Gary Hill, Tim Dobbyn and Bernard Orr)

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Comments (4)
Darr247 wrote:
“Weaned off” it… what??? Let him go cold turkey! They lock people up all over the US every day that are addicted to xanax and the like and they survive just fine. So neuroleptic withdrawal burns out a few synapses… big deal; apparently, he’s too smart for his own good anyway.

Jan 26, 2011 8:23pm EST  --  Report as abuse
mcarney wrote:
Ironic that the public will be denied justice in this case because the public tolerates inhumane brutality to persist in our prisons system. Justice denied, in this case, is justice served.

Jan 26, 2011 11:51pm EST  --  Report as abuse
Saucyjack wrote:
@Darr247 Benzodiazepine withdrawals can kill you. Don’t pretend to know something when you’re obviously clueless. No one with any psychiatric training would suggest forcing someone on high doses of benzos to quit cold turkey. Withdrawals can last weeks and he would likely be even less competent, not to mention the uncertainty about the extent of damage caused by his injuries. I’d be more disgusted by the government for making a potentially cognitively disabled individual withdrawal cold turkey than by a white collar criminal.

Jan 27, 2011 4:25pm EST  --  Report as abuse
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