Jailed Texas financier R. Allen Stanford is mentally competent to stand trial on charges he bilked investors out of $7 billion in a massive Ponzi scheme, a judge ruled Thursday
U.S. District Judge David Hittner's decision came after a nearly three-day competency hearing for the disgraced financier. Stanford's trial is set for Jan. 23.
Stanford had been declared incompetent in January due to an anti-anxiety drug addiction he developed while jailed in Houston. He spent more than eight months at a federal prison hospital in Butner, N.C., getting treatment for his addiction and being evaluated to determine if he had any long-term effects from being injured in a September 2009 jail fight.
A forensic psychologist who helped treat Stanford at the prison hospital testified the financier is now competent, can think clearly after being taken off the drug and has not suffered brain damage from the jail fight.
But four medical experts who testified on Stanford's behalf, including a neurologist and two forensic psychiatrists, said the financier suffered a traumatic brain injury in the jail fight that left him with severe memory loss and unable to think or communicate clearly.
Doctors who treated Stanford at the prison hospital and prosecutors accused him of faking symptoms of amnesia. He says he can't remember all events in his life prior to the prison fight.
Stanford's medical experts said they believed his memory loss was genuine. They said his brain injury, along with a major depressive disorder and post-traumatic stress disorder from the jail fight has left Stanford unable to assist his defense attorneys and to be ready for trial.
Those experts also testified his treatment for other medical conditions, including heart and liver problems, complicated his brain injury and memory loss.
Stanford and three former executives of his now-defunct Stanford Financial Group are accused of orchestrating a colossal pyramid scheme that advised clients from 113 countries to invest more than $7 billion in certificates of deposit, or CDs, at the Stanford International Bank on the Caribbean island of Antigua, promising huge returns.
Authorities say Stanford and the executives fabricated the bank's records, bribed Antiguan regulators with investors' money from a secret Swiss bank account and misused funds to pay for Stanford's lavish lifestyle.
Stanford became a billionaire whose financial empire stretched across the U.S., the Caribbean and Latin America. His attorneys say he ran a legitimate business. He has been jailed since he was indicted in June 2009 by a federal grand jury in Houston, where his companies were headquartered.
He faces 14 counts, including wire and mail fraud. .