Conrad Black’s partial victory

Former newspaper baron has two convictions reversed, two others upheld

by Chris Sorensen

Conrad Black has scored another partial victory before the U.S. criminal justice system, but it’s not clear whether it will be enough to prevent him from going back to jail.

A U.S. appeals court on Friday reversed two counts of fraud against the former chairman of Hollinger International Inc., who was once accused of masterminding a “corporate kleptocracy” that defrauded shareholders of millions. But the court also upheld Black’s more serious obstruction of justice charge, which stemmed from security camera footage that caught him removing 13 boxes of documents from his Toronto offices while under investigation. “No reasonable jury could have acquitted Black of obstruction,” wrote Judge Richard Posner of the 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in his ruling.

As well, the court upheld a single count of fraud relating to a $600,000 payment to Black and his co-defendants as part of deal struck by Hollinger to sell newspapers to two companies in 2007.

After serving more than two years of his original six-and-a-half-year sentence, Black was released on bail from a Florida prison earlier this year when the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that a so-called “honest service” theory of fraud that government prosecutors employed in their arguments against him was defined too broadly. The surprise decision threw the former newspaper baron’s legal convictions into doubt since it wasn’t clear whether the trial jury convicted him based on the government’s honest services argument, or a more conventional fraud argument.

In his ruling, Posner instructed that Black is to be re-sentenced by the trial judge on the remaining two counts. While prosecutors could opt to retry Black on the others, Posner hinted it was unlikely. “The government may wish instead, in order to conserve its resources and wind up this protracted litigation … (to) proceed directly to re-sentencing,” he wrote.

The U.S. Justice Department said in a statement Friday that it is studying the opinion and has yet to make a decision on its next steps.

In a move that doesn’t bode well for Black’s bid to stay out of prison, Posner also wrote that trial judge Amy St. Eve could consider evidence associated with the overturned convictions when determining a sentence for the remaining fraud and obstruction convictions. The obstruction charge alone carries a six-and-a-half-year sentence, which St. Eve originally allowed Black to serve concurrently with the five years he received on the fraud counts. Black’s lawyers were no doubt hoping to have all of the fraud charges reversed, leaving him in the seemingly odd situation of being convicted of obstructing an investigation where no crimes had actually been committed.

Black, who was born in Canada, but later gave up his citizenship, is reportedly living in his Palm Beach mansion after St. Eve prohibited him from leaving the country while on bail.




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Conrad Black’s partial victory

  1. A $600,000 payment to Black and his co-defendents?! After everybody gets their share and after paying the taxman… this is no longer a case of corporate fraud but an egragious mountain made from a molehill of chump change.

    Conrad Black the BILLIONAIRE would not stoop to pick up a penny – and confronted with the least inconvenience would not expend the extra effort of crossing the street to pocket a few thousand dollars.

    The suggestion he was guilty of corporate conspiracy to enrich himself is risible to the extreme! On a per hour basis he earns 100 fold more just by suntanning on a deckchair in Florida while enjoying the miracle of compound interest on his various bank accounts.

    I suspect some malicious legal zealotry to launch a carreer at Black's expense is at play.

    • The thing is, he ran Hollinger like his own private piggy bank at the expense of the shareholders. He may have only committed one act of fraud under the new interpretation of the law, but it's not like he was a golden boy aside from that. It was never in question he was a shady, self-serving businessman with no sense of proprietary, it was a question of to what extent some of his dealings were criminal.

    • Black was a millionaire whose wife threw money around like he was a billionaire. Her attempts to keep up with the billionaire Kravitzes drove Black to take money that didn't belong to him.

    • Why is it you find his guilt so difficult to believe? This man has a checkered background from selling exam papers and trying to steal pension funds, the list is endless. I suspect you have fallen prey to campaigning by Black's sycophants.

  2. He always knew he was dead to rights on the boxes. While it's unfair to draw conclusions, it's also a safe bet that whatever he took out of that building would have got him in so much trouble that serious jail time seemed worth it.

    • In a case such as this, is it really reasonable to conclude that his office had not already been searched and each document already copied? In fact, Conrad was clearing his office because he was asked to remove himself and his belongings from the property. Considering that Conrad Black worked at the office for a number of years, it makes little sense that he would secretly remove boxes in an area that he is well aware has cameras.

      On top of that, each of those documents had been requested by the prosecution four times and each of those four times three copies had been made. It was testified in court that his lawyers had been told that the documents were requested a fifth time but they had not yet informed him.

      Obstruction of justice? I do not think so.

  3. No way Posner should have been the presiding judge. it is ludicrous to attribute impartiality to him considering his former involvement.

  4. Nice try ShaeGetz.

    This isn’t verbatim but the judge made it quite clear that there was evidence of fraud even in the overturned counts – Posner essentially reversed them because SCOTUS narrowed the definition of the honest services law and the jury might have used it to convict him on those two counts.

    All this confirms to me that it is very difficult to get a conviction even when fraud has indeed taken place.

    Bottom line, Black is still guilty of fraud and obstruction of justice. Americans don’t play around.

  5. I am pretty certain I know how this will play out.

    Posner's decision will be appealed.

    The next bench (sans-Posner) will at a minimum overturn Posner's instructions as prejudicial.

    That done – Black will be exonerated on the grounds of lack of motive.

    This story is not over by a long stretch.

    • Wanna put a large sum of money on that?

      Macleans – would you be willing to hold the amount if "ShayGaetz" is willing to pony up?

      (didn't think so…)

  6. He's a crook!
    Lock him up, throw away the key and revoke his title

  7. No.

    The business was enjoying decent returns until people started looking into how the business was being run.

    Like a ponzi scheme.

  8. Only hard-core Black justice-deniers can turn a legal technicality into some kind of exoneration. Black took money that didn't belong to him to support his wife's ridiculously lavish lifestyle. Let's hope the civil suits make that clear.

    Lordy was so concerned with what was in those boxes that he sent his assistant to fetch them for him. When she was told in no uncertain terms that she was not allowed to take them, Black – obviously in a panic – took matters into his own hands (literally) and carried them out after hours.

    The funny thing was that Black thought that the security cameras (including one he's seen pointing at!) were still broken. Nobody told him that they had been repaired earlier that very day.

    We'll never know what really incriminating stuff was removed while he had those boxes.

  9. Bernie Madoff's company was giving investors good returns too – until that house of cards fell apart.

    If Black had been forthright from the start, the stock value would have been far lower. Black wouldn't have had so many investors to rip off.

  10. Conrad Black has no need to worry. The U.S. is really great about rehabilitating corporate criminals. Why Alfred Taubman, who practically invented the shopping mall, was convicted of violating anti-trust laws as CEO of Sotheby's and even went to prison. But now Taubman is a member of the Chamber of Commerce of Detroit. Is a chairmanship of a chamber of commerce somewhere in Florida really out of the question for Conrad Black? Somehow, I doubt it. Certainly, they don't want to mix the likes of Conrad Black with hardened criminals in real prisons, like Angola State Penatentiary in Louisiana, because then you would have prison reform.

  11. Conrad has to worry about Barbie Doll starting to actually look her age. Isn't that punishment enough?

  12. ShayGaetz sounds an awful lot like Black. Is that you Connie???

  13. Crook Black was never in jail in the conventional sense. In the minimum security holding cell the worst thing Black had to endure was sleeping on a metal cot. He was allowed visitors four times week for four hours at a time, and a family gathering of up to six people, once a week. His visitors could bring in gifts to him with each visit. He had to "work" just 4 hours a day for four days a week, with the rest of the time being spent reading or outdoors. Hardly punishment for stealing millions.

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