Arguing that the behavior of R. Allen Stanford and his "latest collection of lawyers (the Bennett-Nguyen Joint Venture)" have prejudiced her right to a fair trial with their "egregious and circus-like conduct," one of Stanford's co-defendants, Laura Pendergest-Holt, filed a June 9 motion asking U.S. District Judge David Hittner to sever her criminal trial.
Pendergest-Holt alleges that Stanford and his criminal-defense counsel from Houston law firm Bennett Nguyen Joint Venture "have flaunted court orders, set up potentially unethical entities to practice law in Texas ... and have faked health issues in court," making it impossible for her to receive a fair trial.
She alleges news media nationwide have "become enthralled with the circus show" that's ongoing in Hittner's court in the criminal case, United States v. Robert Allen Stanford, et al.; in an insurance coverage suit over Stanford's legal fees pending in U.S. District Judge Nancy Atlas' court, Laura Pendergest-Holt, et al. v. Certain Underwriters at Lloyd's of London, et al.; and in a U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission civil suit against Stanford, Pendergest-Holt and others pending in U.S. District Judge David Godbey's court, Securities and Exchange Commission v. Stanford International Bank Ltd., et al. (See the motion.)
Stanford's current lead criminal-defense attorney, Robert S. Bennett of Bennett Nguyen Joint Venture, did not return two telephone calls seeking comment.
In her motion to sever, Pendergest-Holt alleges Bennett and Stanford submitted to insurance companies a "questionable fee agreement proposing an $80 million dollar 'budget' "; Bennett has "misled the courts by ghostwriting Stanford's supposed 'pro se' correspondence to the court" in the insurance coverage suit in Atlas' court; and Bennett has "demonstrated a penchant for being misleading by making statements and filing documents that are not based on accurate facts."
Pendergest-Holt also alleges that Michael Essmyer's recent attempt to withdraw as one of Stanford's criminal-defense attorneys, which Hittner denied, "reinforces the belief that Bennett's actions are not in the best interest of their client, and already have undercut Stanford's likelihood of a successful defense." Before Bennett and Essmyer began representing him in the criminal case in April, Stanford was represented by several other teams of criminal-defense lawyers who have since left the case. Essmyer, a partner in Essmyer, Tritico & Rainey in Houston, declines comment.
Pendergest-Holt argues Hittner "cannot standby and let Stanford and his counsel's course of conduct continue to interfere with Holt's right to a fair trial." Dan Cogdell, a partner in Cogdell & Ardoin in Houston who represents Pendergest-Holt, did not return a telephone call seeking comment.
Stanford, Pendergest-Holt and the other defendants in the criminal case have each 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.
The defendants deny the allegations in the SEC's civil suit.
On June 9, two other defendants in the criminal case, Gilbert Lopez and Mark Kuhrt, each filed motions adopting Pendergest-Holt's motion to sever.