The judge in the upcoming trial of Texas financier Allen Stanford has issued a sweeping gag order, barring the defendants, attorneys and even Stanford's alleged victims from talking to the media ahead of Stanford's January trial. Stanford and several of his former top executives are charged with running a $7 billion Ponzi scheme — a case that has received worldwide media attention.
U.S. District Judge David Hittner issued the order after Stanford agreed to grant a jailhouse interview to CNBC. Stanford is being held without bail at a federal detention center in Houston, and the judge would have had to approve the interview under Federal Bureau of Prisons regulations.
Instead, Hittner issued the order barring virtually all contact with the media by not only the defendants, defense attorneys and prosecutors, but also "the alleged victims and all other designated or potential witnesses" in the case.
"The Court...takes judicial notice that some of the trial participants have demonstrated a willingness to 'try this case in the press,'" Hittner writes. "Such heightened publicity surrounding these proceedings potentially poses a significant danger to providing a fair trial by impartial jurors."
Stanford was indicted in June of of last year on 21 criminal counts, and has been in custody ever since. The Securities and Exchange Commission filed civil fraud charges against Stanford in February, 2009. In his only in-depth television interview after the scandal broke, Stanford told CNBC his financial empire was not a Ponzi scheme, and he blamed the SEC for "decimating" a legitimate business.