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By Anna Driver
HOUSTON (Reuters) - Allen Stanford, the alleged swindler who is being held in solitary confinement in a federal jail, fell ill during a hearing on Wednesday where a judge denied the U.S. government's request to set a trial date.
Stanford, who has been taken to the hospital twice since his arrest on June 19, began spitting blood into tissues and a cup during the hearing, a condition his attorney described as a persistent and undiagnosed.
"They've checked him out and he appeared to be OK," Kent Schaffer, Stanford's attorney told reporters after the hearing in federal court in Houston.
At the status hearing which was temporarily held up by Stanford's condition, U.S. District Judge David Hittner said defence attorneys on the case need more time to prepare.
"You will get a trial date set by me after the next conference," Hittner said, adding that the next hearing will likely be in December.
Stanford, 59, was arrested on June 18 and faces 21 criminal counts. He is accused of masterminding an alleged $7 billion (4.4 billion pound) scheme where fraudulent certificates of deposit from an Antiguan bank were sold to clients.
It was Stanford's first court appearance since he suffered a mild concussion, broken nose and two black eyes in a prison brawl last month while detained at the Joe Corley Detention Facility in Conroe, Texas.
At the hearing on Wednesday, Stanford's face bore faint bruising and he looked gaunt.
Stanford has since been moved to a federal detention facility in downtown Houston, where he is being held in an 8-foot by 9-foot cell and is prohibited from having phone calls or visits from his family, according to Schaffer.
"It's just harassment," the lawyer told reporters after the hearing. "They are trying to break him down."
A spokesperson for the U.S. Marshals Service did not immediately have a comment.
In their request for Hittner to set a trial date, U.S. prosecutors said defendants and their lawyers have now been provided access to court documents that they would need to help prepare for trial.
"There should be a trial date that people can start working around," Assistant U.S. Attorney Gregg Costa said at the hearing. "We're going to try a lean case."
Still, Stanford lawyer and other defence attorneys argued that it is too early to set a trial date because there is too much work to be done.
Judge Hittner ordered public defenders to take the case on September 15 after Stanford failed to come up with the funds to retain a team of defence attorneys.
Since then, funds from a directors and officers insurance policy have become available and the federal public defenders are off the case.
The case is USA v. Stanford et al, U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Texas, No. 09-00342.
(Reporting by Anna Driver; Writing by Chris Baltimore; Editing by Tim Dobbyn and Carol Bishopric)

Reuters