U.S. News

Judge Denies Stanford Defense Team Withdrawal Motion


The federal judge overseeing the criminal trial of accused Ponzi mastermind Allen Stanford has denied a last-minute motion by Stanford’s defense team to withdraw from the case.

Allen Stanford

U.S. District Judge David Hittner says the trial will begin as scheduled on Jan. 23.

The court-appointed defense team, led by Houston attorneys Ali Fazel and Robert Scardino, had filed the bombshell motion on Wednesday, saying Hittner’s rulings — including an order this week that a defense jury consultant no longer be paid — left them in “an untenable position” and unable to effectively represent their client.

The judge had also previously denied a defense motion for a three-month continuance, a position he reiterated Friday.

The attorneys argued they needed more time to prepare the complex case, but in his terse ruling Hittner said they have had plenty of time.

“The Court notes that the defense team maintains this position despite the fact that two of its lawyers — Scardino and Fazel — have been appointed to this case since November 2010,” Hittner wrote, adding that two other attorneys have been on the case since March.

Stanford’s defense is being paid for by taxpayers because the one-time multi-billionaire has been declared indigent. All his funds are frozen, and insurance carriers have refused to pay his legal bills.

Also Friday, Judge Hittner denied separate motions by the defense to throw out the case on constitutional grounds.

Stanford argued his fourth, fifth and sixth amendment rights had been violated based on his treatment while in federal custody, and what the defense contends was an illegal seizure of records in a related civil case.

Stanford, 61, faces 14 criminal counts in what prosecutors say is one of the largest investment frauds in U.S. history, an alleged $7 billion Ponzi scheme involving bogus certificates of deposit.

He has denied wrongdoing.