A jury in Houston returned a guilty verdict against R. Allen Stanford for a $7.1 billion Ponzi scheme on March 6, 2012. Some may want to know what follows for him.
After Stanford's conviction on 13 of 14 counts, federal marshals returned him to the federal detention center in Houston. According to a Wall Street Journal article, Barry Slotnick, an attorney at Buchanan, Ingersoll & Rooney, expects him to receive the maximum sentence. That's a safe bet. With federal sentencing guidelines that factor the amount of loss into consideration, Stanford will likely receive a prison sentence that requires him to serve the remainder of his life in federal prison.
Stanford must come to terms with the severity of the sanction that he is likely to receive. Over the coming months he will feel the weight crushing him. I am intimately familiar with that weight. I was in my early 20's when a jury convicted me, and I faced a possible sentence of life. If Stanford struggles with his conscience, as I did, he will feel alienated from society in ways that aggravate the pain. The only way I found to relieve the pressure was to accept that I had made bad decisions as a young man and that I had to find some kind of way to reconcile to society. Stanford may or may not feel remorse for his actions. Either way, the remainder of his life will likely follow an easily predictable path of monotony.
The next significant event in his life will be preparation for sentencing. A federal probation officer will interview Stanford in the federal detention center for the purpose of conducting a presentence investigation (PSI). During that investigation, the probation officer will ask Stanford to provide his version of events that led to the offense. The probation officer will balance Stanford's explanation by summarizing the government's theory of the case. Since he was convicted, the probation officer, the judge, and federal prison officials will give much more credibility to the government's version of events. The probation officer will speak with others who might offer more insight for the sentencing judge to consider, and the report will conclude with a sentencing recommendation.
If Stanford's refusal to express remorse continues, his lawyers will not succeed in their predictable request for leniency. They will cite contributions that he made to society in an effort to mitigate the guilty verdict, which they will contest on appeal. The prosecutors will argue that Stanford deserves a severe sanction because of his refusal to accept responsibility and his willful disregard for the many victims in the case. I suspect prosecutors will request a sentence in excess of 360 months, or 30 years. The judge will likely comply. Attorneys will appeal, of course, but as a convicted felon, Stanford faces a much higher standard in all future judicial proceedings. Regardless of what sentence his judge imposes, those in the know will expect the court of appeals to affirm Stanford's conviction and sentence.
Bureau of Prisons officials will rely upon the statements in the PSI and the sentence Stanford receives when determining where to "designate" him. That is the term officials use as they decide the appropriate prison for Stanford to serve his sentence. Since his judicial proceedings took place in Houston, the chances are good that he will serve his sentence at one of the prisons in the Federal Correctional Complex in Beaumont, Texas. Another possibility will be the federal prison in Oakdale, La.
The Federal Prison Complex in Beaumont includes several prisons of different security levels. There is a high-security U.S. penitentiary as well as a medium-, a low-, and a minimum-security federal prison camp like the one where I am serving my 25th consecutive year, in Atwater, Calif.
Since Stanford's sentence will likely require him to serve more than a decade in prison, officials will not designate him to a minimum-security federal prison camp. Policies hold that if his sentence requires that Stanford remain in prison for 20 years, he must serve his sentence in at least a low-security prison; if his sentence requires more than 20 years in prison, he will serve his sentence in a low-security prison. The prison complex at Beaumont can accommodate both low- and medium-security prisoners.
A huge difference exists between security levels. Federal prison camps, for the most part, lack volatility and gang pressure. The same cannot be said for secure prisons. A medium-security prison will have a much higher level of volatility than a low-security prison, but a man who disciplines himself can grow in either type of institution. The best adjustment strategy for Stanford, I think, would be for him to follow the following principals:
1) Make a commitment each day to help any prisoner who asks for assistance.
2) Avoid offending anyone, staff members or other prisoners.
3) Create opportunities that add meaning to his life.
4) Focus on what he can become rather than on what the system has done to him.
5) Create opportunities to reconcile with society.
Prison rules will govern Stanford's life for the foreseeable future, likely for the remainder of his days. Those consequences follow convictions of stealing other people's money. He will not find much sympathy, or respect, from the other prisoners with whom he will be forced to shower, eat, and share crowded spaces.
Correction: A previous version of this post erroneously stated that Barry Slotnick is defense counsel to R. Allen Standford.
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