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Latest Bizarre Twist in Allen Stanford Case: Blame It on Twitter

For those of us who follow financial fraud issues closely, the prosecution of R. Allen Stanford has provided a steady dose of craziness since his world began to unravel in 2009. The latest development in that case -- Stanford blaming his conviction on Twitter -- would be extraordinary in most any other context, but in the Stanford case it is merely par for the course. Let's recap:

At the beginning of 2009, Stanford was a billionaire on top of the world, pegged as the 205th richest person in the U.S. with a fortune estimated at $2.2 billion. His office at Stanford Financial's Houston headquarters had a private exit for him through his personal bathroom, and included a five-star dining room, movie theater, professional kitchen and wine bar. The "leading benefactor, promoter, employer and public persona" of Antigua and Barbuda, Stanford became the only American ever granted knighthood in the nation, and began using the title "Sir Allen."

On March 6, 2012, however, Sir Allen was found guilty on thirteen counts related to an alleged Ponzi scheme, including charges of conspiracy, mail and wire fraud, and obstructing an SEC investigation. Stanford was first arrested on these charges in mid-2009, and the road from his arrest to his conviction nearly three years later was full of bizarre developments, including:

  • Stanford became the first person ever to be stripped of his knighthood in Antigua and Barbuda for the "embarrassment Stanford caused the country with the alleged Ponzi scheme he ran from his Antigua-based offshore bank."
  • Stanford hired and fired legal teams at least four times in less than a year, going through "a total of about 120 lawyers, paralegals and clerks from at least 10 law firms" as of mid-2010.
  • While awaiting trial, Stanford was involved in a jailhouse fight and suffered a concussion, two black eyes, and a broken nose. He later claimed that this fight caused him to suffer total amnesia of all events pre-dating the fight.
  • While recovering from the jailhouse fight in the prison hospital, Stanford somehow managed to become addicted to an anti-anxiety drug called Klonopin that left him "mentally foggy." To the outrage of his victims, Stanford's trial was postponed until he could be weaned off of the drug and deemed competent to stand trial.
  • After nine months, Stanford finally kicked the Klonopin habit, but immediately advised the court that the amnesia caused by the jailhouse fight left him unable to stand trial since he could not "remember anything about his past and what he did for 20 years there in Antigua."
  • After prosecutors argued that "convincing, reliable evidence demonstrates that Stanford was faking memory loss," the court denied Stanford's motion to postpone the trial due to amnesia.
  • After the court denied a last-gasp motion by Stanford's entire defense team to withdraw from the case just 12 days prior to the start of jury selection, the trial finally got underway on Jan. 23, 2012.

Stanford has now been convicted, but if you thought that meant the circus had left town then you haven't been paying attention. To the contrary, Stanford has already asked for a new trial because, among other things, U.S. District Judge David Hittner "let reporters send Twitter messages from the courtroom, even while the judge and lawyers were talking outside the jury's presence, and failed to instruct jurors to stay off Twitter."

In their motion for a new trial, Stanford's lawyers did not assert that any Stanford-related tweets actually reached any of the jurors, but rather that these tweets are "likely to have reached a juror, since Twitter does not require active pursuit of information, but rather, if a friend of the juror's was following the 'Stanford trial,' the tweets might automatically show up on a juror's Twitter account." 

Stay tuned, as there is undoubtedly more to come when the appeal process begins.

Posted by Bruce Carton on March 22, 2012 at 04:14 PM | Permalink | Comments (1)

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