Prosecutors doubt Stanford’s incompetency claims

HOUSTON (AP) — Prosecutors, doubting claims by defense attorneys that jailed Texas financier R. Allen Stanford, accused of bilking investors out of $7 billion in a massive Ponzi scheme, is incompetent to stand trial, asked a federal judge on Monday for a second opinion.

Earlier this month, Stanford’s attorneys filed court documents claiming the once high-flying billionaire was found incompetent by a psychiatrist working for the defense. Stanford’s attorneys said their client’s “drastically deteriorating” mental, emotional and physical health is preventing the financier from helping them prepare for his trial, which is set to begin Jan. 24.

But in a court motion filed Monday, prosecutors asked U.S. District Judge David Hittner to order that Stanford undergo a second competency exam.

“A second examination is especially warranted in this case because Stanford’s conduct to date indicates a thorough understanding of the legal proceedings and thus casts significant doubt on the opinion of the defense-selected doctor,” Assistant U.S. Attorney Gregg Costa wrote in the motion.

Hittner did not immediately rule on the request from prosecutors. Also pending before Hittner is a request Stanford’s attorneys made earlier this month asking for a competency hearing.

Ali Fazel, one of Stanford’s attorneys, did not immediately return a call seeking comment. But both prosecutors and defense attorneys have declined to comment on the case since Hittner issued a gag order in September.

Stanford and three ex-executives of his now-defunct Houston-based Stanford Financial Group are accused of orchestrating a colossal pyramid scheme by advising clients from 113 countries to invest more than $7 billion in certificates of deposit at the Stanford International Bank on the Caribbean island of Antigua, promising huge returns. Stanford’s businesses were headquartered in Houston.

However, Stanford’s attorneys say he ran a legitimate business and didn’t misuse bank funds to pay for a lavish lifestyle, as prosecutors allege.

Stanford and the executives have pleaded not guilty to various charges, including money laundering and wire and mail fraud.

They are also fighting a Securities and Exchange Commission lawsuit filed in Dallas that makes similar allegations.

Stanford has been jailed since his indictment in June 2009.

While jailed, Stanford has had a series of health problems, including a non-life-threatening aneurysm in his leg and a concussion and broken nose after getting into a jail fight in September 2009.

In court documents filed earlier this month, Fazel said the variety of medications Stanford is now taking have left the financier “in an unfocused and numbed state-of-mind” and resulted in tremors of his limbs, slowed speech and drowsiness. Although a description of the medications Stanford is taking was filed under seal, previous court documents have said he’s taken antidepressants and psychotropic drugs.

“Mr. Stanford’s impaired mental condition.along with the physical impairments now well documented and known to the Court have created a condition where the Accused can no longer assist Counsel or invoke basic constitutional rights,” Fazel wrote.

But in Monday’s motion, Costa wrote Stanford has submitted documents in the case “that demonstrate an understanding of the legal process far beyond that of the typical defendant.”

Stanford has had various legal woes as well. In October, he lost a lawsuit to have his insurance company pay for his legal fees. Stanford, once considered one of the wealthiest men in the U.S. with an estimated net worth of more than $2 billion, was declared an indigent defendant and had to have Fazel and another lawyer, Robert Scardino, appointed by the court. They are the fifth set of lawyers for Stanford, who had hired and fired other attorneys.

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