Above, Allen Stanford in happier times. Yesterday, the former knight, Sir Allen Stanford was sentenced by a judge in Houston, Texas to 110 years in a US prison. Sir Allen, now Mr Stanford is aged 62. This means that given that with 50% remission for good behaviour, Mr Stanford will be eligible for “early release” in 55 years time when he will have reached the grand age of 117 years! In other words, this is a whole of life sentence. Allen Stanford will die in prison.
What did Mr. Stanford do to deserve such a savage sentence?
Is he a murderer?
Is he a serial paedophile who has been convicted of a series of serious sexual assaults against young children?
Is he a drug smuggler or armed robber?
Is he one of the late and unlamented Osama Bin Laden’s “sleepers”?
Mr Stanford is in fact a fraudster.
U.S. District Judge David Hittner in Houston imposed the sentence yesterday, after stating that Allen Stanford was guilty of “one of the most egregious criminal frauds ever presented to a jury in federal court.” He also ordered Mr Stanford to forfeit US $5.9 billion. Jurors in March convicted the Stanford Financial Group principal of 13 charges, including five counts of mail fraud and four of wire fraud.
“From beginning to end, he’s treated his victims like road kill,” Assistant U.S. Attorney William Stellmach told the judge yesterday before a courtroom packed with some of those victims. “Allen Stanford doesn’t deserve anyone’s sympathy, and he doesn’t deserve your honour’s mercy.”
Allen Stanford had no visible reaction to the sentence. Maintaining a fixed gaze at the judge, he didn’t look back at his mother, Sammie, or daughter Randi, who were among the 200 attendees.
Mr. Stanford’s attorneys said the conviction and sentence will be appealed.
“We’re very disappointed in the outcome,” said Ali Fazel, a Stanford lawyer. “It’s a harsh punishment, and it’s tough on him. He is upset because he feels like he didn’t do anything.”
“I’ve been called a lot of things — arrogant, abrasive, a son of a gun, difficult, very opinionated and strong-willed. But I am not a thief,” Mr. Stanford, dressed in green prison garb, told the judge during a 30-minute address. “I never planned to, never did, either corporately or personally, defraud anyone and never set out to do that.”
Stanford told the court, “I worked my butt off for 30 years to build this company,” adding later, “If we’d been allowed, we could have liquidated every single asset and paid off every single depositor liability and every single depositor and still had significant and substantial assets remaining.”
Prosecutors asked for a 230-year term, the maximum under federal sentencing guidelines. His attorney requested a 10-year term for his client.
“Thirty years and 110 years are effectively the same sentence,” Doug Burns, a former prosecutor, said in an interview yesterday. “The judge obviously felt a very high sentence was necessary.”
“A triple-digit, eye-popping sentence might make for good headlines but it does not make any sense whatsoever in terms of sound sentencing policies,” Barry Pollack, a Washington-based criminal defence attorney, said in a phone interview yesterday. “It’s Monopoly money. It’s not a real number,” he said, adding that symbolic sentences can actually undermine the integrity of the sentencing process.
“I would much rather see sentences that are crafted to fit the actual facts and circumstances of the individual case than to use sentencing as a mouthpiece to voice public anger,” he said.
British Gazette comment: Mr Stanford’s sentence demonstrates the following:
- the danger of pleading “Not Guilty” to a charge in a US courtroom. Had he have “copped a plea” his sentence would have been shorter – but it probably for him still have meant around 25 years in prison. Which for him in a US prison is effectively a whole of life sentence anyway as US prisons are harsh and dangerous places.
- that the USA cannot consider itself a tolerant country with values similar with other mainstream First World Countries such as Canada to the north of it.
- that danger of electing judges and prosecutors. Be in now doubt, if the UK had the same system as the USA – electing Crown Prosecutors and Crown Court judges this country would sentence similarly. And this country would have the crisis in prison numbers the USA has.
British Gazette readers may disagree with the Editor’s comments and question why the Editor is in their view “soft on crime.” Well let me tell you why.
I had an uncle. He died some time ago now. My uncle was a very brave man. He was a former RAF Officer during World War Two and was in Bomber Command – in Lancasters. He flew a considerable number of missions over Germany before being shot down. When captured he received harsh treatment at the hands of the Waffen SS. Amazingly however he managed to escape. He made it back to Blighty and in Liberators was sent out east to the Burma theatre. He was awarded the DFC. My uncle was a man of strong opinions and might even had commented that Mr Stanford got more or less what he deserved.
However, the difference between my uncle and the Editor of this organ saying such is vast. You see, my uncle EARNED THE RIGHT to be tough on such as Mr Stanford. He repeatedly found the courage to strap himself into a Lancaster bomber and flew missions over Germany. He endured and eluded the Waffen SS.
He once said: “If you are going to be tough of your men – by asking them to endure hardship and danger – you have to be two or three times as hard on yourself. You have to drive yourself harder and longer and demand more of yourself than any of the men under your command.”
That is what being an officer in the forces of Her Majesty the Queen is all about – whatever the service.
What irritates – intensely – the Editor is to read the gungho “he deserves all he gets” type of comment posted in the comments column of such as the Daily Mail. Of course these characters if faced with the challenges faced by the officers in our armed forces would whine, whimper and wet themselves.