Stanford judge puts hush on all parties before trial

A federal judge presiding over criminal charges against Texas financier Allen Stanford has issued a sweeping gag order to silence defendants, attorneys and even Stanford’s alleged victims from talking to the media ahead of his January trial.
Stanford will be tried separately on 21 counts that he masterminded a $7.2 billion Ponzi scheme on certificate of deposit investors through his Stanford International Bank Ltd., based in the Caribbean.
Also charged but with a separate trial are Laura Pendergest-Holt, formerly of Baldwyn, who was Stanford’s chief investment officer, and two other executives.
Another former Baldwyn resident, James M. Davis, now of Michigan, was Stanford’s chief operating officer and pleaded guilty to his part in the scandal.
Stanford Financial Group and its subsidiaries collapsed in the spring of 2009, under the weight of an investigation by the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission.
The company had offices in Tupelo, Jackson and Memphis. Thousands of people lost their life savings and retirement funds.
U.S. District Judge David Hittner issued the order in Houston, Texas, after Stanford agreed to grant a jailhouse interview to CNBC. Stanford is being held without bail at a federal detention center in Houston, and the judge would have had to approve the interview under Federal Bureau of Prisons regulations.
Holt and the others are free on bond.
Instead, Hittner issued the order barring virtually all contact with the media by not only the defendants, defense attorneys and prosecutors, but also “the alleged victims and all other designated or potential witnesses” in the case.
“The Court … takes judicial notice that some of the trial participants have demonstrated a willingness to ‘try this case in the press,'” Hittner writes. “Such heightened publicity surrounding these proceedings potentially poses a significant danger to providing a fair trial by impartial jurors.”
The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Patsy R. Brumfield/NEMS Daily Journal