October 4, 2010 / 10:24 PM / 7 years ago

Stanford asks judge to dismiss criminal charges

3 Min Read

<p>Allen Stanford, the former billionaire accused of a $7 billion fraud, arrives at federal court in Houston wearing handcuffs and leg irons October 14, 2009.Richard Carson</p>

HOUSTON (Reuters) - Allen Stanford's lawyers on Monday asked a judge to dismiss all criminal charges filed against their client, arguing in a court filing that the Texas financier's constitutional rights have been violated.

The 98-page filing in U.S. District Court also asked the court to suppress evidence uncovered by Ralph Janvey, the court-appointed receiver in the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission's civil fraud case filed in Dallas.

Stanford was stripped of his possessions and money without due process by the receiver, a violation of his rights under the U.S. Constitution, according to the court filing.

Stanford, 50, is accused of leading a $7 billion Ponzi scheme that centered on fraudulent certificates of deposit issues by his bank in Antigua.

He has pleaded not guilty to the 21-count indictment and is in a federal prison in Houston awaiting trial in January.

"This motion addresses an extraordinary, if not unprecedented, example of a citizen's constitutional rights being profoundly violated by the government through its utilization of a civil process that at its essence constituted punishment without a trial," a violation of the Fourth and Fifth Amendments, Stanford's lawyer, Robert Bennett, said in the filing.

Stanford's assets were frozen and his property was seized in February 2009, when the SEC filed civil charges against the man whose net worth was estimated to be more than $1 billion.

"Mr. Stanford was literally left with only the suit he was wearing at the time of the SEC take-over on February 17, 2009: the government even seized his underwear," the filing said.

The government also used the receivership to unconstitutionally seize and search "a vast universe" of personal and corporate documents, without regard to probable cause, the lawyers argued.

Stanford also asked U.S. District Judge David Hittner, who is overseeing the criminal case, for an evidentiary hearing into the matter.

Last week, Judge Hittner banned lawyers and witness involved in Stanford's criminal case from talking to the media, saying there was a "substantial likelihood" the jury pool might be tainted.

A spokeswoman for the U.S. Department of Justice declined comment on the motion, citing Hittner's gag order.

In a separate filing, Bennett asked for a change of venue, arguing that a Houston jury would be prejudiced by the media coverage of Stanford's case and their are strong feeling of victimization in the community.

"It would be virtually impossible for Stanford to receiver a fair trial in Houston, Texas," Bennett wrote.

Stanford Financial Group was headquartered in Houston, but the former billionaire spent most of his time in Antigua.

The case is USA v. Stanford et al, U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Texas, No. 09-CR-00342.

Reporting by Anna Driver, editing by Leslie Gevirtz

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