The federal judge in accused Ponzi schemer Allen Stanford's criminal case says he wants some answers before agreeing to Stanford's request for yet another new legal team.
Judge David Hittner has set a hearing for Tuesday morning, April 6, on Stanford's request this week to replace his current legal team--Houston attorneys Kent Schaffer and George McCall Secrest--with attorneys Michael Essmeyer and Robert Bennett, also of Houston.
While the motion says Stanford is requesting the change "merely so that justice can be done," it reportedly comes as a result of a dispute between Stanford and his current lawyers over defense strategy.
"Mr. Secrest and I believe our strategy in trying the case is important," Schaffer told the Associated Press. "Mr. Stanford has his own ideas."
It is not the first time Stanford has clashed with his attorneys. His original criminal defense lawyer, Dick DeGuerin of Houston, asked to withdraw in July, just six weeks after Stanford's indictment. While the issue was whether DeGuerin would be paid while Stanford's assets were frozen, there were also suggestions of a disagreement over strategy.
Stanford sought to replace DeGuerin with Washington lawyer Robert Luskin, but with the question of fees still unresolved, Luskin never signed on.
Stanford was then briefly represented by a court-appointed public defender before Schaffer took over the case and added Secrest as co-counsel. Earlier this year, a federal appeals court ordered Stanford's corporate insurance carrier, Lloyd's of London, to pay his legal fees pending further action by a lower court.
Stanford is being held without bail on 21 criminal counts in an alleged $7 billion Ponzi scheme. He is scheduled to go on trial in January, 2011, and Judge Hittner says the change in attorneys--if approved--will not be grounds to delay the trial.