Houston's Michael Essmyer, a criminal defense attorney for jailed Houston financier R. Allen Stanford, and Essmyer's firm, Essmyer, Tritico & Rainey, don't want to represent Stanford anymore -- and they claim Stanford feels the same way.
On Friday, Essmyer and his firm filed a motion asking Senior U.S. District Judge David Hittner of the Southern District of Texas to allow them to withdraw from representing Stanford. Essmyer and his firm have been on the case since April 6, when Hittner granted a motion allowing Stanford to substitute Essmyer and Houston lawyer Robert S. Bennett for former counsel.
Essmyer and the firm allege in the motion filed Friday that "irreconcilable differences" have arisen between them and Bennett, of Bennett Nguyen Joint Venture, over litigation strategy and "other matters."
"The nature of the irreconcilable differences is also the fact that Mr. Bennett acts independently without lead counsel's knowledge or consent, and often in a manner that, in lead counsel's opinion, is detrimental to the best interests of the client," they allege in the motion. They allege they "do not want to be held responsible for the actions of Mr. Bennett."
In addition to the conflict with Bennett, they allege Stanford sent them a letter on May 14 terminating them.
Essmyer and his firm allege if Hittner allows them to withdraw from the case, Stanford will still have Bennett as his counsel. "Further, Mr. Bennett, according to his own application to the insurance carrier has 15 other counsel working with him, including Alan Dershowitz," Essmyer and his firm allege in the motion. Dershowitz is a professor at Harvard Law School who is a consulting attorney on the case, says Essmyer.
Essmyer and Bennett decline comment on the motion.
Gregg Costa, an Assistant U.S. Attorney in the Southern District of Texas who is the lead prosecutor on the case, did not return a telephone message seeking comment, but according to the motion, Costa "takes no position" on the motion.
While Essmyer and his firm allege Stanford has terminated them, Hittner may not allow them off the case. On April 6, Hittner told Stanford that if he granted the motion to substitute, he wouldn't "entertain any substitution" in the future and would not delay Stanford's criminal trial set for January 2011 because of the new legal team. "The bottom line: Do you understand Mr. Bennett and Mr. Essmyer will be your lead attorneys?" Hittner asked Stanford at that hearing.
Stanford has pleaded not guilty to fraud and conspiracy charges related to an alleged conspiracy to defraud investors who bought about $7 billion in certificates of deposit sold through Stanford International Bank Ltd.
This article first appeared on Tex Parte Blog.