Allen Stanford seeks new trial, blames Twitter

Wed Mar 21, 2012 5:58pm EDT

1 of 2. Allen Stanford leaves the Federal Courthouse where the jury found him guilty, in Houston March 6, 2012. Stanford was convicted on Tuesday of running a $7 billion Ponzi scheme, a verdict that caps a riches-to-rags trajectory for the former Texas financier and Caribbean playboy.

Credit: Reuters/Donna W. Carson

(Reuters) - Allen Stanford, the financier convicted of running an estimated $7 billion Ponzi scheme, has asked for a new trial, citing the media's use of Twitter in the courtroom and a lack of time to prepare his defense.

Stanford, who turns 62 on Saturday, was convicted on March 6 by a Houston federal jury on 13 of 14 counts related to what prosecutors said was the sale of bogus certificates of deposit from his Antigua-based Stanford International Bank Ltd.

In a 71-page filing with the U.S. District Court in Houston on Tuesday, Stanford's lawyer, Ali Fazel, said his client was deprived of his Sixth Amendment right to a fair trial.

Stanford cycled through more than a dozen lawyers since his June 2009 arrest and was declared indigent by the court, allowing his defense to be funded with public money.

Fazel said he lacked time to prepare given the "voluminous" amounts of material. He and colleague Robert Scardino were retained to represent Stanford in October 2010.

Fazel also said the case turned into a "media circus" that left the Houston area "saturated with publicity prejudicial to Stanford" even before the six-week trial began.

He said this was perpetuated when U.S. District Judge David Hittner let reporters send Twitter messages from the courtroom, even while the judge and lawyers were talking outside the jury's presence, and failed to instruct jurors to stay off Twitter.

"This broadcasting is likely to have reached a juror, since Twitter does not require active pursuit of information, but rather, if a friend of the juror's was following the 'Stanford trial,' the tweets might automatically show up on a juror's Twitter account," Fazel wrote.

Stanford's request for a new trial does not indicate whether such information actually reached jurors.

"It would be disruptive to the business of the court if such messages were making it to the jury," said Christine Corcos, a professor of media law at the Louisiana State University Law Center in Baton Rouge. "That's why more and more federal judges are saying reporters cannot bring in Blackberries or other devices."

Stanford was convicted of fraud, conspiracy and obstruction of a U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission investigation.

He is scheduled to be sentenced on June 14 and could spend the rest of his life in prison.

The jury also found that federal authorities should try to seize $330 million of frozen funds that Stanford stashed in 29 foreign bank accounts.

The case is U.S. v. Stanford, U.S. District Court, Southern District of Texas, No. 09-cr-00342.

(Editing by Martha Graybow and Andre Grenon)

We welcome comments that advance the story through relevant opinion, anecdotes, links and data. If you see a comment that you believe is irrelevant or inappropriate, you can flag it to our editors by using the report abuse links. Views expressed in the comments do not represent those of Reuters. For more information on our comment policy, see http://blogs.reuters.com/fulldisclosure/2010/09/27/toward-a-more-thoughtful-conversation-on-stories/
Comments (3)
AlkalineState wrote:
The Anthony Weiner defense: “Twitter made me do it.”

Even Weiner was smart enough to drop that one after about two hours.

Mar 21, 2012 4:51pm EDT  --  Report as abuse
MidwestVoice wrote:
Really? Only three years from 2009 to 2012 to “prepare”? AND on the taxpayer’s dime? How does he have “frozen assets” of $330 million yet did not have to pay for his own attorney!?!? Save some taxpayer $$ and possibly deter the next guy – just take everything he owns (all property, all bank accounts) and toss him into prison for the rest of his life. No perks, no minimum security federal country club – a real federal prison in general population. See how that works out.

Mar 21, 2012 5:40pm EDT  --  Report as abuse
Harry079 wrote:
“Stanford cycled through more than a dozen lawyers since his June 2009 arrest and was declared indigent by the court, allowing his defense to be funded with public money.”

Why is it up to the Jury to “find” that the FEDs should try and seize the $330 million?

What if the Jury said the Feds should unfreeze the assets so he could pay for his own defense?

What if the jury found the Feds should give the money to Planned Parenthood or ACORN?

Mar 21, 2012 5:59pm EDT  --  Report as abuse
This discussion is now closed. We welcome comments on our articles for a limited period after their publication.

California state worker Albert Jagow (L) goes over his retirement options with Calpers Retirement Program Specialist JeanAnn Kirkpatrick at the Calpers regional office in Sacramento, California October 21, 2009. Calpers, the largest U.S. public pension fund, manages retirement benefits for more than 1.6 million people, with assets comparable in value to the entire GDP of Israel. The Calpers investment portfolio had a historic drop in value, going from a peak of $250 billion in the fall of 2007 to $167 billion in March 2009, a loss of about a third during that period. It is now around $200 billion. REUTERS/Max Whittaker   (UNITED STATES) - RTXPWOZ

How to get out of debt

Financial adviser Eric Brotman offers strategies for cutting debt from student loans and elder care -- and how to avoid money woes in the first place.  Video