Jailed financier Stanford gets new attorneys

HOUSTON U.S. District Judge David Hittner ultimately granted the request but not before taking Stanford to task during a sometimes heated exchange over the number of attorneys he's had in the case.

"We may want to add additional counsel later on," Stanford, wearing a green prison jumpsuit and handcuffs, told Hittner as he stood in court.

"No sir ... you got 'em," Hittner responded.

Stanford's new legal team, Houston-based attorneys Michael Essmyer and Bob Bennett, are the financier's fourth set of lawyers since he and other executives of the now-defunct Houston-based Stanford Financial Group were indicted less than a year ago.

During Tuesday's court hearing, Hittner said Stanford has had a total of 10 attorneys enter or try to enter the case at some point. Hittner then listed them.

Hittner told Stanford if the request was granted, there would be no more new attorneys. Stanford insisted he might want to add more attorneys before going to trial in January.

"I think I have a Sixth Amendment right to counsel of my choice," Stanford said.

"Over and over again?" Hittner responded.

After more back and forth between the two men, Hittner told Stanford to sit down and asked Essmyer to speak with his new client.

"You ask the questions. He apparently won't give me answers," Hittner told Essmyer.

Essmyer asked Stanford if he wanted to proceed with the change in attorneys under Hittner's conditions. Stanford responded yes and wanted to say more but Essmyer cut him off.

Hittner granted the request, saying the Jan. 24, 2011, trial date would not be changed.

After the hearing, Stanford's previous attorney, Kent Schaffer, pointed to the financier's behavior in court on Tuesday as to why he left the case, quoting the Latin phrase, "res ipsa loquitur," which means, "the thing speaks for itself."

"That was every day," Schaffer said. Stanford's behavior Tuesday is an example "of what we were dealing with. It was not worth it."

Essmyer said Stanford's long list of attorneys has more to do with money problems the financier has faced since being indicted and jailed in June.

Stanford, once considered one of the wealthiest men in the U.S. with an estimated net worth of more than $2 billion, had all his assets seized by authorities.

Stanford's attorneys, which were first appointed by the court and at one time included a federal public defender, have now been hired and are being paid through an insurance policy from Lloyd's of London that said Stanford's company would pay for up to $100 million in legal fees if executives were ever accused of crimes.

Stanford and other company executives are accused of orchestrating a Ponzi scheme by advising clients to invest more than $7 billion in certificates of deposit from the Stanford International Bank on the Caribbean island of Antigua.

Investors from 113 countries were promised huge returns on their CDs and that their investments were safe.

But authorities say Stanford and the executives fabricated the bank's balance sheets, bribed Antiguan regulators and misused investors' money to pay for his lavish lifestyle.

Stanford and the three executives have pleaded not guilty to various charges, including wire and mail fraud, in a 21-count indictment. Another former executive, James M. Davis, has pleaded guilty and is cooperating with prosecutors.

Copyright © 2022 KTRK-TV. All Rights Reserved.