HOUSTON Allen Stanford is not competent to prepare for his criminal trial because he suffers from depression and is addicted to a powerful anti-anxiety drug that has left him mentally foggy, psychiatrists told a U.S. judge on Thursday.
"In my opinion ... he's unable to work effectively with his attorney to develop a defense against the charges," Victor Scarano, a psychiatrist testifying for the defense, told a hearing before U.S. District Judge David Hittner.
In previous court documents, Stanford's attorneys have argued that he was not mentally fit to prepare for a criminal trial because of the medications he has been prescribed since being put in prison in June 2009.
The hearing in federal court in Houston is being held to determine whether Stanford is competent and whether his scheduled January 24 trial date should be postponed.
Stanford, 60, should be released so he can safely get off the drugs and assist in his defense, the lawyers have said in court papers.
Stanford, who attended the hearing dressed in a green prison jumpsuit, did not speak.
Stanford has pleaded not guilty to a 21-count indictment charging him with leading a $7 billion Ponzi scheme run out of Stanford International Bank Ltd on the island of Antigua.
The Texas financier is on a very high dosage of clonazepam, an anti-anxiety drug brand-named Klonopin. He also takes mirtazapine, an anti-depressant brand-named Remeron. Stanford suffered brain trauma after a jailhouse fight in September 2009, Scarano told Judge Hittner.
A doctor hired by government prosecutors agreed with Scarano's assessment that Stanford was not able to help with his defense. Steven Rosenblatt, also a psychiatrist, said Stanford suffered delirium resulting from clonazepam.
"I would question the reasonableness of that dose in this case," Rosenblatt told the hearing, adding that getting Stanford off the medication "should help a lot."
Stanford's attorney's are seeking a 2-year delay of the trial. Prosecutors argued a shorter delay was more reasonable.
The case is U.S. v. Stanford, U.S. District Court, Southern District of Texas, No. 09-cr-00342.
(Reporting by Anna Driver in Houston; Editing by Phil Berlowitz)