Allen Stanford has been reduced to “a wreck of a man” and fears he is “losing his mind” as he awaits trial in a Texas prison, according to his attorneys. They’ve brought in celebrity lawyer Alan Dershowitz to argue that the conditions in which Stanford is being held are hindering his ability to prepare a defense, and to request his immediate release.
The former high-living billionaire is in a bad way, according to a motion filed yesterday by his team — “malnourished and underweight,” “slow in his gait … and in his speech and thoughts,” quickly losing his memory, frequently falling into “mental black holes,” and largely unable to use his right eye to read, thanks to the effects of a brutal physical assault.
In a plaintive jailhouse email written in January and included in the motion, Stanford — who faces charges of orchestrating an $8 billion Ponzi scheme through the company he founded, the Stanford Financial Group — complained that he is “stuck in prison literally rotting away mentally, physically, emotionally and not doing ANYTHING to prepare for trial.”
To craft the motion, Stanford’s defense team recently turned to Dershowitz, who has defended a slew of high-profile clients including O.J. Simpson, Mike Tyson, Klaus Von Bulow, and Leona Helmsely, and is currently in Israel. Martin Weinberg, who was brought in along with Dershowitz, told TPMmuckraker that the motion raises “profoundly important constitutional issues … at the intersection of a presumed innocent man being required to prepare for a complex case without bail.”
In the motion, a series of lawyers and legal assistants describe the obstacles they’ve faced in working with Stanford to prepare his defense for a trial that is scheduled to start in January 2011. Those obstacles are said to include both Stanford’s deteriorating physical condition, and also his lack of access to the internet — where many of the 8-9 million documents that the defense says it needs to review are exclusively found.
During meetings to prepare for trial, Stanford “often falls into self-described ‘mental black holes’ where he is awake and aware but cannot remember anything and where he is disoriented mentally and physically,” Nhan Nguyen, one of Stanford’s lawyers, testifies in a sworn affidavit.
Another lawyer, Ashley Tse, gives this description of a meeting with Stanford:
When I began conversing with him, he was able to remember my name and intricate details about his case. However, every time I asked him a question related to his case, he would restate my name, and repeat the intricate details of his case he had mentioned a few minutes prior. Further attempts to get an answer to my questions were continuously answered with, “Ashley, I know I sound like a loony-bird but I know I am just not myself.” Most of my first meeting was comprised of listening to Mr. Stanford tell me what he ate at the FDC that day and how much he missed his family.
At a subsequent meeting, Tse testifies, Stanford “was unable to form coherent sentences and was unable to remember my name, not attorney Bob Bennett, who he had seen almost every day for a couple months.”
“I have personally witnessed Mr. Stanford begin speaking, then stop mid sentence to stare at a wall, then completely forget what we were discussing prior to his memory lapse,” she continues. “I can see his frustration and conscious effort to fight back tears when trying to remember something he wanted to tell me, but is unable to recall the information.”
On another occasion, Tse testifies, Stanford “was barely able to speak and could not form a coherent sentence the entire meeting”
And legal assistant Evelyn Saravia testifies that Stanford had told her he sometimes has feared he is “losing his mind.”
The motion sums up Stanford’s physical and mental condition this way:
He remains in the throes of a major depression, which is becoming progressively more debilitating, the symptoms of which include
1. Disheveled appearance and he had not shaved in several days.
2. Unable to sleep without the aid of the mirtazapine and clonazepan.
3. Energy level is low, does not want to get out of bed in the morning, feels like he has
to drag himself around, and has not exercised.
4. Unable to concentrate, short term memory is poor and is getting worse, and
complains of memory gaps.
5. No appetite but forces himself to eat.
6. Exhibits psyschomotor retardation with slow thinking and decreasing mental
7. Denies suicidal thoughts but worries that when he falls into one of the black
depressive holes he will be unable to come back.
“Mr. Stanford must regain his physical, mental, and emotional health,” the motion argues, “if he is to meet the challenges of being a defendant in a case of this magnitude.”
In the January email, Stanford also charged that prison guards listen in on his phone calls. “[O]ne even came up to me to offer advice on how I should handle my personal life and said he taken a real interest in on my calls even coming in on days off so he won’t miss out on my very personal life he referred to as better than a soap opera,” he wrote. “Of course I can’t say anything or I am the target of retaliation.”
The defense lawyers argue that other high-profile defendants accused of major financial crimes — including Bernie Madoff, Ken Lay, Jeff Skilling, and Bernard Ebbers — were allowed to remain free on bail for months at the outset of their cases.