R. Allen Stanford, found guilty of running a $7 billion Ponzi scheme, lost a retrial bid in which his lawyers argued that Twitter comments by courtroom news reporters may have influenced the jury that convicted him.
“The defendant’s motion for a new trial is denied,” U.S. District Judge David Hittner in Houston ruled today without elaboration in a single-sentence decision.
Stanford, 61, was found guilty on 13 of 14 criminal counts after a six-week trial in which prosecutors convinced jurors that he misled investors about what was being done with proceeds of the certificates of deposit they bought from Stanford International Bank Ltd. in Antigua.
Stanford is scheduled to be sentenced June 14. The four wire-fraud charges and five mail-fraud charges he was convicted of each carry a maximum punishment of 20 years in prison.
Defense lawyers, in a March 20 filing, said journalists’ real-time coverage of the trial on Twitter improperly influenced the jurors, who had been warned to avoid other forms of media coverage.
“This court failed to sequester the jury and permitted the news media to occupy the courtroom during trial and permitted the media to ‘tweet’ throughout the trial,” attorneys Ali Fazel and Robert Scardino argued in their filing. They also said they weren’t given enough time or money to prepare for the trial.
Stanford’s assets were frozen in February 2009 after the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission sued him and the bank. A federal judge in Dallas appointed a receiver to liquidate the financier’s holdings to repay investors.
Scardino and Fazel were appointed by the court and paid with public funds.
“We file motions for new trials for many reasons, including wanting to preserve the record for appellate court,” Fazel said today in an e-mail. “The next step is sentencing.”
Laura Sweeney, a Justice Department spokeswoman, declined to comment on today’s ruling.
The case is U.S. v. Stanford, 09-cr-00342, U.S. District Court, Southern District of Texas (Houston).
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