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Allen Stanford Near 'Complete Nervous Breakdown'

Attorneys for accused Ponzi schemer Allen Stanford—who has been in custody without bail since his indictment in June—say their client is in danger of a "complete nervous breakdown," so they are again asking a federal judge to let him go free on bail.

Stanford, 59, is scheduled to go on trial in January of 2011 on 21 criminal counts. Soon after Stanford's arrest in June, U.S. District Judge David Hittner ruled he was a flight risk, and a federal appeals panel affirmed the ruling. Now, in a 50-page motion filed on Monday, Stanford's attorneys are asking the judge to reconsider the ruling. The filing says Stanford's health has deteriorated so much following six months in custody that he is unable to assist in his own defense.

The filing by defense attorneys Kent Schaffer and George McCall Secrest claims Stanford was in excellent health before his incarceration, but "all of that has now changed." In August, on the morning of a scheduled court appearance, Stanford was rushed to the hospital with a heartbeat of more than 200 beats per minute. A physician's report included with the filing describes the condition as "potentially lethal."

Allen Stanford
AP
Allen Stanford

The following month, Stanford was hospitalized again, undergoing surgery to repair an aneurysm in his leg. Three weeks later, the filing says he was assaulted by another inmate, "apparently over the use of a telephone." Stanford suffered broken bones and nerve damage in his face, and the filing says he "lost all feeling" in his right cheek, the area around his right eye, the right side of his nose and his upper lip. His vision, previously 20/20 in his right eye, "has deteriorated to the point he can only read with his left eye," the filing says.

But the filing says some of the most serious damage has been emotional. Following the fight in September, Stanford was transferred from a detention facility in Conroe, TX, to the federal detention center in downtown Houston.

There, he spent nearly a month in solitary confinement—described in stark detail in the filing, and even though he has not been convicted of a crime "was confined under the same maximum security conditions as a death row prisoner," the filing says. He became "increasingly despondent," is "unable to focus on the facts and issues of his case, often repeats himself, and is in considerable discomfort."

The filing quotes defense psychiatrist Victor Scarano, who evaluated Stanford twice in October, as saying Stanford "is suffering with the signs and symptoms of a major depression," and that if his conditions do not change he will suffer "more likely than not, a complete nervous breakdown."

Not only do his physical and emotional condition prevent him from assisting in his defense, the attorneys say, but the lack of Internet access at the Houston detention center means he cannot review the evidence against him, much of which is in electronic form.

Stanford's attorneys cite numerous high-profile white collar cases in which defendants were granted some form of bail, including accused Ponzi schemers Bernard Madoff and Marc Dreier, and accused hedge fund inside trader Raj Rajaratnam. Madoff and Dreier were placed under house arrest; Rajaratnam is free on $100 million bond, and is seeking to have that amount reduced.

Stanford's attorneys ask that he be confined to his Houston apartment with a 24-hour, seven days a week armed guard. They also offer that Stanford sign a "non-revocable waiver of extradition," which they say would make it even less likely that he would flee.

Federal prosecutors have consistently opposed Stanford's release under any circumstances. They have yet to respond to the latest filing.

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