Stearns case moving along in Austin court

It’s going faster than anyone anticipated at Brian Russell Stearns’ federal fraud trial in Austin. Some 60 witnesses are expected to appear and on Tuesday 12 breezed through, and U.S. District Judge James Nowlin told prosecutors to hurry up their scheduling. In a case that was expected to take up to three weeks, the judge said it may even be finished by the end of this week. Stearns, 30, is charged in an 82-count indictment, which took over an hour just to read in court. His alleged offenses include securities, mail and wire fraud. In opening statements Monday, prosecutor Robert Webster told jurors that Stearns fraudulently took $28 million from Canadian, Panamanian and Nevada companies. He was also accused of luring hundreds of people from Brady and surrounding communities into giving him $4.5 million amd promising returns of up to three times the investment. Stearns’ defense attorney, Stephen Orr, countered that Stearns never acted like a criminal. He said Stearns even hired off-duty police officers to give 24-hour security around his lavish Lake Austin home. “I’m going to tell you that a guy who’s involved in scams, defrauding and cheating’as the government will have you believe’doesn’t invite the police into his house,” Orr said. He also pointed out that Stearns hired a prominent Dallas law firm to handle his financial affairs, “something no one would do while intending to defraud people,” Orr continued. A number of federal agents, business associates, brokers, lawyers and alleged victims also appeared earlier this week.

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