A federal judge ruled Thursday that financier Allen Stanford [BBC profile; JURIST news archive] is mentally competent to stand trial for orchestrating a $7 billion Ponzi scheme affecting investors in both the US and Latin America. The decision came after a three-day hearing [Reuters report] in which U.S. District Judge David Hittner decided that Stanford was able to assist his lawyers in preparing for trial. Stanford has been in federal custody since his arrest in June 2009. His lawyers were unsuccessful in arguing that he suffered from retrograde amnesia and diminished mental capacity [Bloomberg report] as a result of head injuries sustained during a 2009 assault while in prison. Doctors and psychologists at the prison hospital have accused Stanford of faking symptoms of amnesia. The trial is scheduled to begin on January 23.
In February, Stanford filed a lawsuit [JURIST report] accusing federal agents of violating his constitutional rights. The suit, filed in the US District Court for the Southern District of Texas, named 12 defendants, including members of the FBI, the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) and the Department of Justice (DOJ) [official websites]. Stanford alleged that the defendants used "abusive law-enforcement methods" to pursue a frivolous civil suit [JURIST report] against him in order to gather evidence for his criminal prosecution. In January, a federal judge indefinitely postponed [JURIST report] Stanford's trial, citing a chemical dependency that prevented Stanford from standing trial. In June 2009, Stanford pleaded not guilty [JURIST report] to 21 charges of fraud, conspiracy, and obstruction.