R. Allen Stanford’s Houston criminal-defense attorneys filed a motion last night asking Senior U.S. District Judge David Hittner to allow them to withdraw from the case, which is set for trial on Jan. 23. Stanford’s court-appointed attorneys -- Scardino & Fazel partners Ali Fazel and Robert Scardino, solo John Parras and Ken McGuire of the McGuire Law Firm – no longer want to defend Stanford, the former chairman of Houston’s Stanford Financial Group (SFG).
The lawyers allege in their Jan. 11 motion in United States v. Robert Allen Stanford that their investigation is incomplete -- a situation caused in part by “funding constraints” for experts and litigation support. Also, they allege, because Hittner turned down their request for a 90-day continuance, Stanford “will not receive effective assistance of counsel” because they will not be ready for trial on Jan. 23. “Proceeding to trial under these circumstances would result in representation that falls well below the constitutional standard for effective assistance of counsel,” the lawyers allege in the motion. They ask Hittner to allow them to withdraw or to grant them an additional 90 days to prepare for trial and to grant “prior budgetary requests.”
Lead prosecutor Gregg Costa, an assistant U.S. attorney in the Southern District of Texas, did not immediately return a telephone call seeking comment.
Also on Jan. 11, before Stanford’s defense team filed the motion to withdraw, Hittner issued a scheduling order that sets a June 11 trial date for defendants Laura Pendergest-Holt, Gilberto Lopez and Mark Kuhrt, who worked with Stanford at SFG. ”Counsel are advised that the foregoing trial date is a preferential setting and should adjust their trial and personal schedules accordingly,” Hittner wrote in that order.
In June 2010, Hittner granted a motion filed by Pendergest-Holt, and joined by Lopez and Kuhrt, to sever their trials from Stanford’s. Stanford and his co-defendants, indicted in June 2009, have pleaded not guilty to the criminal charges against them related to an alleged conspiracy to defraud investors who bought about $7 billion in certificates of deposit sold through Stanford International Bank Ltd.
A June 2011 superseding indictment in Stanford brings a total of 14 counts against him: one count of conspiracy to commit wire fraud and mail fraud; five counts of wire fraud; five counts of mail fraud; one count of conspiracy to obstruct an SEC investigation; one count of obstruction of an SEC investigation; and one count of conspiracy to commit money laundering.
-- Brenda Sapino Jeffreys