Wednesday, September 16, 2009

One of the Richest Men in the US Can't Afford an Attorney

There is something wrong with this picture. Texas financier R. Allen Stanford was reported to be worth approximately 2 billion dollars before his arrest on securities fraud charges. Yesterday, the court appointed a public defender to represent him, because he cannot afford an attorney.

How is it that a billionaire does not have money to pay an attorney? The government has seized all of his assets and apparently will not release any funds for Stanford to retain counsel.

I don't have a perfect solution to this problem, but something is wrong when the government can accuse (not convict) a citizen of a crime, and seize all of his assets to that he cannot afford to have an attorney represent him. I am sure that the public defender will do as good a job as he or she can, but a public defender's office is not equipped to  defend a 7 billion dollar fraud case.

Without doing the research, it seems to me that this must be a constitutional violation here. The man has been accused of committing a crime, he has not been convicted, and no one has established that all of his assets are the proceeds of the alleged crime. How does the court justifiy the seizure of all of a defendant's assets on the filing of an accusatory instrument?

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