U.S. News

Allen Stanford incompetent for trial: judge

Texas billionaire Allen Stanford arrives at the Federal courthouse in Houston, in the custody of U.S. marshalls, June 25, 2009. REUTERS/ Steve Campbell

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.

While incarcerated, Stanford sustained a head injury during a 2009 confrontation with another inmate and underwent surgery for repair of facial fractures. A psychiatrist later testified that Stanford is unable to assist his attorneys in his defense, either because of the injury or due to over-medication.

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

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

An attorney for Stanford was not immediately available to comment on Wednesday, nor was a representative for the U.S. Attorney’s office in Houston.

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 and an eventual competency exam.

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 and Tim Dobbyn