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Alan Dershowitz Joins Allen Stanford Defense Team

Indicted banker Allen Stanford, who this week switched criminal defense attorneys for the third time, has added a top legal scholar to his defense team.

Allen Stanford
AP
Allen Stanford

Harvard Law Professor Alan Dershowitz has signed on as a consultant, and CNBC has learned Dershowitz visited Stanford in a federal detention center in downtown Houston this week.

Stanford, accused of running a $7 billion international Ponzi scheme, has been in custody non-stop since his indictment last June and was denied bail after being declared a flight risk.

A succession of defense lawyers has argued his confinement is illegal if not unconstitutional, which is presumably where Dershowitz comes in.

Dershowitz has represented celebrity clients from Patricia Hearst to O.J. Simpson, and is perhaps best known for his succesful appeal in 1984 of socialite Claus von Bulow's murder conviction.

It is unclear how large a role Dershowitz will play in Stanford's case. At a court hearing in Houston on Tuesday, U.S. District Judge David Hittner approved Stanford's latest defense team, led by Houston attorney Michael Essmyer.

Stanford was initially represented by Houston defense attorney Dick DeGuerin, but just six weeks after Stanford's indictment DeGuerin asked to be removed from the case because he was not being paid.

A federal judge in Dallas had ordered Stanford's assets frozen in February 2009. Stanford attempted to replace DeGuerin with Robert Luskin of the Washington, DC, law firm Patton Boggs, but with no assurances he would be paid either, Luskin never signed on.

Houston attorney Kent Schaffer took over the case after Hittner cleared the way for Stanford to collect on a directors and officers liability policy with Lloyd's of London.

But this week, Schaffer and co-counsel George "Mac" Secrest formally asked Hittner to remove them from the case, saying "the relationship between them and the defendant has deteriorated to the point that they are unable to render effective assistance of counsel and fulfill their legal and ethical obligations."

Stanford, who faces 21 criminal counts, is scheduled to go on trial in January.