(Updates with case background beginning in seventh paragraph.)
Jan. 12 (Bloomberg) -- Lawyers for R. Allen Stanford, the Texas financier scheduled to go on trial this month on charges of leading a $7 billion fraud, asked a judge to let them quit the case.
Attorneys Ali Fazel and Robert Scardino, who are being paid from public funds because Stanford’s assets are frozen by court order in a related case, filed the withdrawal request with U.S. District Judge David Hittner in Houston yesterday, saying budget restrictions are hampering their effectiveness.
“The rulings of this court, the budget matters made public by this court, and matters still under seal have placed counsel in an untenable position,” they said. “Counsel cannot represent the accused competently.”
Jury selection is scheduled to begin on Jan. 23. Stanford is accused of defrauding investors who bought certificates of deposit issued by his Antigua-based Stanford International Bank. He has denied the charges.
Laura Sweeney, a spokeswoman for the U.S. Justice Department, declined to comment on the lawyers’ request, citing a court gag order barring lawyers from discussing the case.
Stanford has been in federal custody since he was indicted in June 2009.
Stanford’s lawyers have complained since the first of the year about a decision by the Fifth Circuit, which controls budgets for the financier’s taxpayer-funded defense, to limit funding available for experts and support staff.
On Jan. 3, contractors providing Stanford’s defense team with electronic document management and expert witnesses quit over unpaid bills dating back to September. They returned to work on Jan. 6 after the chief judge of the Fifth Circuit granted partial back pay and ordered them to resume work on the case.
Two days ago, Hittner, who is in charge of Stanford’s criminal trial, cut off funding for a jury consultant involved with Stanford’s defense.
“As a result of the funding issues in this case and in light of the current trial deadlines, the defense will be compelled to try the case without having had the resources necessary to render constitutionally adequate representation, while the government has been entirely unfettered by any financial resource constraints,” Fazel said in yesterday’s filing.
Stanford’s lawyers asked Hittner for a 90-day delay in the start of the trial if he refuses to let them leave the case.
The case is U.S. v. Stanford, 09-cr-00342, U.S. District Court, Southern District of Texas (Houston).
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