Ex-Lawmaker Gets Public Defender Ahead of Plea

HOUSTON (CN) – A former Texas Congressman is expected to plead not guilty Monday to federal charges he solicited funds for bogus charitable foundations and diverted more than $500,000 to himself and his campaigns.

Steve Stockman, 60, told U.S. Magistrate Judge Nancy Johnson at a pretrial hearing this week he has $17 in his bank account after paying attorneys to defend him against the government’s long-running investigation into his and his numerous companies’ finances.

“This is a four-year case and I spent all my money on attorney’s fees,” he said.

Johnson peppered Stockman with questions at Wednesday’s hearing at the federal courthouse in downtown Houston to find out if he qualified for a court-appointed attorney.

Wearing a dark suit and tie, Stockman said his wife makes $6,000 a month at her job, and they own a suburban Houston home and two minivans. He said he hasn’t been able to work since FBI agents arrested him on March 15 in Houston as he boarded a plane headed to the United Arab Emirates because the terms of his $25,000 bond prevent him from leaving the country, an apparent requirement of his job.

Stockman’s former attorney Dane Ball declined after the hearing to say who Stockman works for.

Stockman represented Texas’s 9th Congressional District from 1995 to 1997 and its 36th Congressional District from 2013 to 2015.

Stockman retained Ball and two of his fellow attorneys at the Houston firm Smyser Kaplan & Veselka on March 24, days after Stockman’s former congressional staffer Thomas Dodd pleaded guilty to mail and wire fraud and lying to the Federal Election Commission. Dodd agreed to testify against Stockman.

Stockman seemed relaxed and confident when telling reporters after hearings in the case last month that he’s innocent, and blaming the charges on a “deep state” conspiracy inspired by his criticism of the Internal Revenue Service when he was in Congress.

His demeanor had drastically changed Wednesday. His blue eyes flashed a deer-in-the headlights look as reporters questioned him after the counsel-determination hearing and his former attorneys hustled to him an elevator.

Ball and his colleagues withdrew as Stockman’s counsel Thursday because he can’t afford to pay them. Crediting Stockman’s claims of destitution, Johnson appointed Houston attorney Richard Kuniansky to handle his defense.

Kuniansky, a former federal prosecutor in Georgia and Florida, has been a criminal defense attorney for the last 28 years. In 2013, he defended a Stanford Financial Group executive who pleaded guilty to helping his former boss, R. Allen Stanford, bilk investors in a $7 billion Ponzi scam.

Kuniansky did not immediately respond Friday when asked if Stockman will plead not guilty at his arraignment Monday.

A grand jury handed down a 28-count superseding indictment on March 28, charging Stockman and his former aide Jason Posey with fraudulently soliciting $1.2 million in charitable donations and diverting more than $500,000 to pay their personal expenses and to finance Stockman’s campaigns.

Stockman is a born-again Christian and former computer salesman.

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