NEW ORLEANS (AP) – Lawyers for jailed Texas financier R. Allen Stanford said his right to a speedy trial after his 2009 indictment have been violated and they asked a federal appeals court Wednesday to let him go free on bond as he awaits trial in what prosecutors said was a huge Ponzi scheme.
A federal prosecutor said delays have been for legitimate reasons, including time needed to find a co-defendant, and Stanford’s own request for a continuance to prepare for a complex trial.
“Mr. Stanford is responsible for every single bit of the delay that he now says makes him eligible for release,” Assistant U.S. Attorney Gregg Costa told the three-judge panel of the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.
The panel, including the 5th Circuit’s chief judge, Edith Jones, gave no indication when it would rule.
Stanford and others face a variety of federal charges in Houston federal court, including mail fraud, wire fraud and conspiracy in what prosecutors say was a $7 billion pyramid scheme. A trial date is currently on hold while Stanford undergoes treatment for an anti-anxiety drug addiction.
Both sides agreed that continuances have been necessary due to the complexity of the case. The defense, however, argued in briefs and in Wednesday’s hearing that the federal district judge in the case erred in failing to allow bond for Stanford. The speedy trial act, they said, requires trial within 90 days of arrest. It makes allowances for various delays that have the effect of suspending the 90-day period, but defense attorneys argued that the judge did not make the required findings of fact in court to justify continued custody of Stanford.
Court appointed defense lawyer Ali Fazel told the 5th Circuit that Stanford should be released from Bureau of Prisons custody so that he can begin to aide his defense attorneys while he undergoes drug treatment.
Costa noted that this is not Stanford’s first attempt to win release. U.S. District Judge David Hittner has previously determined that Stanford is a flight risk.
Stanford’s trial had been set to begin on Jan. 24 but Hittner agreed to delay its start until the financier can be treated for several medical problems affecting his competency.
Psychiatrists testified in January in Houston that Stanford was suffering a major depression and is dealing with the untreated aftereffects of a traumatic brain injury suffered during a jail fight in September 2009. They also said Stanford was being overmedicated for his depression and became addicted to an anti-anxiety medication called Clonazepam.
Stanford’s attorneys have asked for at least a two-year delay to deal with his medical problems as well as various legal issues related to getting ready for trial. Prosecutors, who agree a delay is needed, have said two years is unreasonable.
After losing a bid last year to have an insurance policy cover his legal fees, Stanford is now considered an indigent defendant and has to rely on court appointed attorneys.
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