By Patsy R. Brumfield/NEMS Daily Journal
HOUSTON, Texas – Accused swindler R. Allen Stanford will go on trial Jan. 23, charged with a $7.2 billion Ponzi scheme on investors.
U.S. District Judge David Hittner rejected a request to postpone the trial of the former billionaire who ran Houston-based Stanford Financial Group.
“The public’s interest in a speedy trial is particularly acute in such a case as this in which thousands of investors allegedly purchased CDs from Stanford under false pretenses and subsequently lost billions of dollars,” Hittner said in the ruling, issued Wednesday. “This trial will decide not just whether Stanford is guilty of the criminal charges, but also whether hundreds of millions of dollars of investor funds currently frozen may be forfeited and returned to his alleged victims.”
Jury selection will begin Jan. 23.
James M. Davis, a Baldwyn native, is expected to be the government’s key witness against Stanford, his college roommate who made him his second in command at the global company. Davis pleaded guilty to his part in the scheme in August 2009 and remains free on bond, reportedly working on his father-in-law’s farm in Michigan.
Stanford’s government-appointed lawyers claimed he suffered brain damage in a jailhouse attack that rendered him unable to assist in his own defense. His original trial date last January was postponed so the defendant could undergo a series of evaluations at a federal prison hospital.
Last week, Hittner ruled that Stanford was competent and on Wednesday denied the lawyers’ request for more time to prepare for trial.
Stanford, 61, maintains he is innocent of the 14 charges he faces. He has been held without bail since his June 2009 arrest.
A federal indictment alleges he and others – including Baldwyn native Laura Pendergest-Holt – defrauded investors who bought certificates of deposit issued by Stanford’s bank in the Caribbean island nation of Antigua.
She and two other co-defendants are free on bail and will be tried later, and a fourth is fighting extradition from Antigua.