Acting sua sponte, Senior U.S. District Judge David Hittner today issued a gag order in the criminal case against R. Allen Stanford and three other former executives of Stanford Financial Group of Houston. Hittner wrote that prohibiting public comment from the defendants, their attorneys, prosecutors and all others associated with the case is the “least restrictive measure to preserve a fair trial.” There is “substantial likelihood that extrajudicial commentary by trial participants might taint the jury pool and might undermine a fair trial,” Hittner wrote in the six-page order. Beginning today, the prosecutors and their staff; the alleged victims and all other designated or potential witnesses; the defendants and their attorneys and staff; and the defendants’ agents, including publicity agents, “shall not give, authorize, or permit any extrajudicial statement to any person associated with any public communications media relating to the trial, the parties, the witnesses, or the issues in this case” that could potentially interfere with a fair trial and that is not public record. Stanford’s criminal trial is set to begin Jan. 24, 2011, and the three other former SFG executives who also face criminal charges will go to trial later. The defendants have pleaded not guilty to fraud and conspiracy charges related to an alleged conspiracy to defraud investors who bought about $7 billion in certificates of deposit sold through Stanford International Bank Ltd.
-- Brenda Sapino Jeffreys