Financier Allen Stanford Found Incompetent to Stand Trial

A federal judge today ruled financier Allen Stanford is incompetent to stand trial due to his inability to assist his lawyers in his own defense.

Several of the news reports on the ruling highlight the judge's finding that Stanford is addicted to drugs he has been given at the federal detention center and need to withdraw from them. A review of the pleadings and court orders in the case (available on PACER, and which I've been following for a few months) tell a much more complex story.

Stanford didn't take these drugs prior to being detained pending trial. He was viciously assaulted in pre-trial detention and sustained brain injuries. Then he was given the medication. Only by withdrawing from them can doctors now determine whether his cognitive deficits are the result of the drugs or the traumatic brain injury he sustained when assaulted. .[More...]

The drugs are anti-depressants and anti-anxiety medications. The primary drug is Klonopin (clonazepam). The others are Remeron and Zoloft

Although three psychiatrists agree Stanford is incompetent to stand trial because his brain isn't functioning to the point where he can assist his lawyers in his defense, none could say whether it's due to the over-medication provided at the Detention Center, or brain damage from the assault. So they need to detox him so they can test his brain function.

From a defense motion:

On September 24, 2009, Mr. Stanford was assaulted by an inmate at Joe Corley Detention Center. As a result of this assault, Mr. Stanford suffered a concussion, traumatic brain injury, fractures of multiple facial bones including the nose, and right orbital bone and injury to his right optic nerve. Mr. Stanford underwent surgery five (5) days later to repair the damage to his face and jaw. He has since complained of frequent headaches, has permanently lost the ability to read with his right eye, and permanently lost all feeling on the right side of his face.

Five days later, he was moved to the Federal Detention Center and placed in solitary confinement at the SHU (special housing unit)for the first 23 days.

At the detention center, Stanford was given Klonopin, Remeron and Zoloft. The doctors who examined him for the competency hearing say the Klonopin was administered in an unusually high dosage, as high as 3.0 mg per day. If Klonopin is not withdrawn correctly, doctors said Stanford could suffer seizures or potentially die.

So after suffering a violent assault at the Joe Corley facility, Stanford has been kept in pre-trial detention and over-medicated.

Stanford suffers from delirium, an organic brain syndrome. What's not known is whether the delirium is the result of over-medication or soft-tissue damage from the traumatic brain injury. His lawyers argued:

The experts all stated that the Accused might have suffered permanent frontal lobe damage. Dr. Axelrad testified that it was necessary to have neurological testing performed on the Accused both before and after he is detoxified from the benzodiazepines. By undertaking such testing, Dr. Axelrad explained, it will be possible to determine exactly what brain damage exists from the assault. Because the Accused is on such high dosages of Klonopin, Zoloft, and Mertazipine, the experts could not determine if he had suffered permanent brain damage.

The Court today ruled that Stanford does have an understanding of the charges and proceedings, but that he lacks the mental capacity to assist his lawyers in preparing his defense. (There are 20 million documents of discovery in the case.)

Thus, once finding Stanford incompetent, the law requires the Judge to commit him to the custody of the Attorney General for treatment at a suitable facility. The Judge suggested a place like like Butner in N.C., a medical facility) so that he can safely reduce his use of Klonopin and then be neurologically tested to find the cause of his brain deficits.

Stanford's lawyers asked for bond, so that he could be treated at a private hospital or at home, but the Judge said no bond, and that the statute doesn't give him the authority to designate him anywhere but into the custody of the Attorney General.

So Allen Stanford had no drug problem when he surrendered to authorities upon learning of the charges and was ordered detained without bail pending trial. He took no prescription medications. He was ordered held at Joe Corley, a Texas private jail. First he required emergency surgery for a heart-related matter. Then he wsa viciously assaulted. As a result of the assault, he was knocked unconscious, suffered brain injury from multiple fractures of the nose, a right orbital blow out fracture, and injury to his right optic nerve, impairing his vision. (His hospital records state “A titanium mesh was affixed using 3- 1.5 mm screws after using a nitrogen gas drill to power the holes with 1.3 mm system drill and bit.”)

Only after the surgery from the assault, was he moved to to the Federal Detention Center, and its way of dealing with Stanford was to throw him in solitary for 23 days and then over-medicate him. And now he lacks the necessary brain functions to assist his lawyers in his own defense. According to the doctors, Stanford now suffers from:

  • a traumatic brain injury
  • Overmedication of Klonopin and addiction to Klonopin
  • Dementia caused by an assault that caused traumatic brain injury
  • Major Depressive Disorder.

Stanford appealed his detention order three times. Every court denied him bond. The U.S. Supreme Court refused to hear his case.

America. Prison Nation.

< Wednesday Afternoon Open Thread | Time for a Gag Order on the Government in the Jared Loughner Case >
  • The Online Magazine with Liberal coverage of crime-related political and injustice news

  • Contribute To TalkLeft

  • Display: Sort:
    Wow (5.00 / 1) (#1)
    by gyrfalcon on Wed Jan 26, 2011 at 11:10:56 PM EST
    I hadn't heard about this, not even the initial assault.  I think I can say without risk of contradiction that this is absolutely outrageous.

    And it's ironic as heck as we've been hearing daily updates and discussions about the careful way the docs in Arizona and now Houston have been assessing and evaluating Congresswoman Giffords.

    Stanford may well be a really bad guy, but this amounts to torture, which ain't even in the statutes on financial fraud, never mind someone who hasn't even stood trial yet.


    As a side note-- Remeron is an interesting choice of antidepressant here, and possibly actually a good one.  My late mother was prescribed it when she fell into depression at the nursing home she had to go to for a couple of months for rehab after a debilitating condition was made worse by a whole bunch of really stupid hospital errors.

    The folks at the nursing home called it their "miracle drug" because its effects in very small doses are dramatic but without side effects on depressed elderly folks, and it apparently can be started and stopped abruptly without ill effect, unlike most antidepressants.  It also has the huge advantage for elderly patients of stimulating appetite.  Not so wonderful if you're young and depressed and taking a larger dose, but just what you want for most elderly.

    First Rich Guy Ever.. (none / 0) (#2)
    by ScottW714 on Thu Jan 27, 2011 at 12:19:06 PM EST
    ... to have a regular guy prison experience.

    I hate to see anyone go through this sort of incarceration, but no one can say it's extraordinary or that it doesn't happen all the time with the regular criminals.  It's just too bad a high profile case won't change anything.

    Did the person who assaulted him get charged ?

    On the plus note, maybe this will have an effect on future white collar criminals.  He is the poster child for what can happen to a rich guy in prison, or rather pre-trial detention.

    Is it common... (none / 0) (#3)
    by kdog on Thu Jan 27, 2011 at 12:52:06 PM EST
    for the state to dope up prisoners on powerful anti-depressants?  Is it common to treat brain injuries with anti-depressants?

    I'm thinking we need to watch our jailers ever more closely...lest they dope up prisoners into zombies just to make their jobs easier.

    I Just Assumed That Drugs in Prisons... (none / 0) (#5)
    by ScottW714 on Fri Jan 28, 2011 at 08:56:39 AM EST
    ... are dolled out very sparingly, like the military, Motrin for everything.

    And kdog speak for yourself, if I ever find myself behind bars I hope and pray I can get medicated to the point of near insanity.  And I wouldn't worry much about staff doping up others, I would worry about the staff doping up themselves.

    The article doesn't mention if the high doses were a result of Stanford requesting them or if that is their standard operation procedure.


    not that high Klonopin (none / 0) (#4)
    by diogenes on Thu Jan 27, 2011 at 03:58:13 PM EST
    People build up a tolerance to Klonopin and lots of people take that much.  Certainly taking klonopin can cloud the thinking of someone with brain damage, but remember that this is a benzodiazepine like valium and that it's usually the patient who is driving the increases in dosage to treat reported anxiety or panic symptoms.  It's just as well that he will be detoxed--many jails don't use klonopin at all because of the large amount of malingered anxiety that occurs because inmates love the stuff.