Stanford fit for trial
DISGRACED Texas financier Allen Stanford is mentally fit to stand trial, a United States federal district court judge has found.
Judge David Hittner ruled that Stanford would face a jury next month on charges that he swindled investors of more than US$7 billion in a “massive” Ponzi scheme involving certificates of deposit (CDs) at his Antigua-based Stanford International Bank (SIB).
The trial is to begin with jury selection on January 23.
Stanford’s defence team argued unsuccessfully that their client’s mental capacity was diminished by head injuries he suffered in a 2009 jailhouse assault and the effects of powerful anxiety medications prescribed in prison after the beating.
“I have found by a preponderance of the evidence that Stanford is competent to stand trial,” said Judge Hittner in his ruling.
Hittner’s ruling followed nearly three days of argument over the extent of brain damage Stanford, 61, suffered from the assault and the extent to which he might be faking memory loss.
“He wants to con his way out of this case the same way he conned investors for more than 20 years,” assistant US attorney Gregg Costa told the judge. “Don’t let him do it.”
Robert E. Cochrane, the psychologist who was Stanford’s lead evaluator at the federal prison hospital in Butner, North Carolina, testified that the former financier failed every test designed to expose fakers.
Stanford’s claim of complete retrograde amnesia, the loss of the memory of what happened before the event responsible, was “remarkable” because it was so rare, Cochrane said.
Stanford first reported having lost his memory after he arrived at Butner in February, more than a year after the assault, the government said.
“Every doctor on the stand agreed that Mr Stanford is not suffering from the complete retrograde amnesia he repeatedly claimed he had,” Costa said.
Once it was accepted that Stanford was exaggerating his memory loss, “it pulls the rug out from under all the other psychological problems he’s reporting,” the prosecutor said.
But Stanford’s lead lawyer, Ali Fazel, argued that all the examining doctors agreed “he’s not right. There’s something wrong with him”.
Fazel said Stanford’s brain trauma and psychological impairments left him incapable of assisting his lawyers or testifying in his own defence.
“Mr Stanford isn’t running away from anything. He wants to fight.”
Fazel argued that Stanford was assaulted and over-medicated while in government custody and wanted the “opportunity to get better and help his counsel.”
The defence put on testimony from three psychiatrists or neuropsychologists who all said the former billionaire was incompetent.
“He says it’s like there’s a blackboard with all his life written on it, but there are clouds that obscure it,” Victor Scarano, a forensic psychiatrist who examined Stanford for the defence, testified.
“Every once in a while, a cloud opens up and he can connect with the memory, and then the clouds come back,” he added.
Scarano testified that Stanford couldn’t recall some of his children, romantic encounters or business details, adding that he retained “partial pieces” of memory. (CMC)